I have found that unexpected encounters with wild creatures can sharpen the senses, are often exhilarating, and are always educational. One thing is certain: these meetings with the natural world capture all of your attention and are seared into your memory.
But the encounters that involve reciprocity between wild creatures and humans touch our souls and often have a hidden lesson. Just this week, my neighbor Elaine Elms and I shared an encounter with a crow family that I’m still pondering …
On Wednesday, Elaine heard loud cawing and a general ruckus in her front yard, so she investigated and discovered a fledgling crow under a jasmine bush. After investigating, she left the feathered parents and extended family to attend the adolescent. But first she had to cancel the gardeners.
From inside her home, Elaine kept an eye on the drama in her yard. At dusk the fledgling took a short flight over Elaine’s fence into their backyard. That’s when things became complicated. Like us, the Elms family has two canines. So now there was no more backyard romping for Boone and Baker.
During the day, the avian parents fed the fledgling crow, 80% of its adult size, and Elaine provided water. At the end of the day, it attempted flying but could manage no more than a few yards.
John and I shared this drama from our yard, hoping and praying for a happy ending. Soon, we would be more directly involved …
The next night as the sun was going down, the fledgling took flight and ended up in heavy brush along our mutual chain-link fence. I went out to see if I could see it. There, tucked up in some branches, was a shiny black bird almost as big as its parents. He looked at me with bright chestnut eyes and, unconcerned, settled down.
The next morning, John went out to see if our visitor was still there. He took a piece of pear with him and, finding the fledgling in his cozy nest, dropped the pear nearby. After John came in, I cautiously went out to take a look. I spotted the young bird and was concerned that it was trapped in the heavy brush by the fence. However, as I came closer, the crow parents started cawing with alarm, swooping low over me. I retreated. Using binoculars inside the house, I realized the visitor was on the move.
A few minutes later, I received a message from Elaine: the fledgling was back down in her back yard.
It feels like it is taking forever to tell this story, and frankly, as the hours and days wore on, I felt that hope was wearing thin—that the parents would keep going, that the baby would grow strong and live—and I thought, I just can’t bear it if something goes wrong, so I sent off a fragmented prayer that was wrapped in anxiety and concern.
And then, in the late afternoon, things changed. Elaine heard from a wildlife naturalist, and the advice was stellar. Along with water, she made scrambled eggs and softened kibble. This helped the parents out with feeding both themselves and their earthbound offspring. In the evening, the baby was refreshed and flew into a large climbing rose bush, settling in for the night.
Early Sunday morning, the moment came that both avian and human surrogate parents were waiting for: the fledgling soared up, up, up high onto a branch, where its mother waited. And we earthbound humans gave a sigh of relief laced with joy.
The vigil was over. A life was saved, and Mother Nature smiled.