Tuesday, November 8, 2011

why my ethics are so annoying: and not just to me

Subtitle: why this poop shot is my only proof
of having a warm and tiny dark-eyed junco in my hand this week.


Sub-subtitle: why environmental/wildlife ethics
can be such a bore.

And why people w/less education/concern
re: animals and their experience of humans
have WAY more fun w/wildlife than I do.

2 days ago a junco bonked into our window.

I had not TWENTY MINUTES EARLIER put up MORE stickers on our windows, as the migrants who are (my inference) not familiar with the area are frolicking like mad outside, and two butter-butts had, while flitting around each other, grazed my window in a gentle


K. duly warned.

bb goes outside, washes windows in 30-something dF weather,
even breathing on the glass to warm it up,
and slaps on more WindowAlert stickers.

TWENTY minutes later, BANG!

I look up, see a bird gracefully swoop up,
away from the glass, then land straight down,
amid bright fall grass.

oh crap.

So, I look, yes, bird there. Bird dazed.

I see if I can pick it up. Yes.

Not a good sign.

Put it under my shirt for a while so it will be warm.
Take it out, then see it's panting (I give off a lot of heat). oop.

replace bird in grassy blind.

go back inside, set up a box w/fuzzy hat bedding and watered-down gatorade so this little guy can rest and not get eaten by a cat/hawk/etc.

go back outside, get junco, place into box in room, shut door and leave it alone. Restrain self and check it only twice in an hour. "Friendly visits" are probably completely terrifying events for birds, so I resist the temptation to bird sit. NOT EASY!

2nd visit it's gone. Not in box.

I look to the 2 windows. Yes, junco'd recovered,
flown to the window, and pooped on my sill.

The LEAST I deserve.

I grab the now more feisty (hooray!) bird,
and release it outside.

End of story.

Note no Nikon-grabbing, one-handed photos taken of bird in hand.
No shots of a stunned-yet-photogenic junco recovering in my fuzzy hat.



However, the point really is, this is not about me:
it's about the junco.

I believe it's best for the junco for me to allow it a quiet, people-free space to recoup in the relative warmth and safety of my house while it gathers its wits, which it left on my window.

It's best for the junco if I don't stare at it with the giant Nikon lens/eyeball as it is crouched, freaked, and vulnerable.

And when I went outside and held it away from me, its little brown body swooping up and away toward the sun, vanishing into a dense, berry-n-bug-filled manzanita shrub,

it was a lovely sight to see.

Even just the one time.



  1. Well done! I guess you can never have enough stickers...

  2. Since we the readers got an excellent, thoughtful post, full of vivid descriptions, out of your good deed, *I* don't find your ethics in the least annoying. :) And I bet the junco appreciated them, too. In so far as the concussed little bird-brain was able to, that is.

  3. A former bird bander taught me a trick to let a window-stunned bird recover safely: put it in a brown paper bag, fold the top over a couple times, set aside in a darkish quiet place where you can still monitor it. You'll know the bird is ready to be released when it starts rattling the bag. Plus now you have a handy way to carry the bird back outside!

    Kudos to you for taking care of the junco.

  4. Sometimes a little poop is all the thanks ya need.......

  5. I don't understand your statement, bb:
    "And why people w/less education/concern
    re: animals and their experience of humans
    have WAY more fun w/wildlife than I do."

    This post feels personal as I recently had a bird fly headlong into one of our north-facing windows. It died. And, yes, I have pictures of it in my hand, because it was already dead: http://natureid.blogspot.com/2011/11/black-throated-gray-warbler-110211-at.html

    So, are you saying those fancy WindowAlert stickers are not effective at all for birds? Then, why do you keep putting them up?

    A couple years ago we had UV protectant windows put in, and the bird hits seemed to have increased. Knowing birds see UV light, I wonder how the birds really see these kinds of windows or stickers.

  6. 1. I love my blog readers. You guys are so funny.

    2. @Katie: Oh, that comment was WAY not directed at anyone, really, and certainly NOT people who's windows cause birds to bash (that'd be everyone except a person w/no windows). It's SO sad when that happens, but it's hard to prevent. Frankly, I'm putting these stickers up (which reflect uv) 'cause I DO think it's reduced the rate of window bashing, so I FEEL that it's better than no stickers, but I didn't collect data, or anything. Hoping it helps, I guess.

    I've read, though, that if a bird is near your window, say on the ground looking for food, and it sees a predator, almost nothing will enable it to see your window (short of shutters?) 'cause it's in such a panic to flee ("blind panic). So, in that case, there's little you can do.

    What I meant by that statement (which I realize I did not explain) is that because of the things I've read about the effects on wildlife of seeing or being handled by humans.

    Like work was being done on some endangered species (including darting and tagging the animal, drawing blood, whatever, to track their health) and they die of a heart attack. Just from being handled by humans. So sad. And that fear is seldom apparent, in my experience, to people.

    Another example is a study on elk in Yellowstone and their response to just seeing humans. If I remember it correctly, they tracked elk heart rate and even when people were hundreds of yards away, not really doing much of anything, the elk's heart rate at least doubled, possibly more, when it saw the people.

    As I said, don't remember details, but it really made an impression on me, so tho' I'd LOVE to interact w/ wildlife more than I do, I'm super conservative about it (hence no pics), to the point where I annoy my husband. =)

    That's what I meant. And learned in Animals in Translation that a prey species (in this case a cow) will stand normally, so you think it's fine. It's leg injury must be all better.

    Then you set up a camera in their stall? And the moment the last person leaves (even a known person to the cow), the cow lifts the injured leg. They are SO strongly selected to NOT show injury/fear, that I truly believe our ability to understand/perceive what they feel when we handle them is very limited.

    Anywho, that's what I meant. Birds hit windows and it's a total drag and I'm doing what I can but I'm still not sure it works. But, it doesn't hurt, so why not try.


  7. Wow, after all that, I'm still not sure I finished the point. =)

    Point was, if I'd not learned all I'd learned about wildlife, I would have figured a few pictures was fine. The bird didn't LOOK scared. SEEMED calm. And it's just a few pics.

    From what I've read, though, I personally believe the bird is VERY frightened and VERY stressed, so I try to spend as little time with it as possible. THAT is the not fun part. Not fun for me. OR blog readers as there is no photo. But, there ya go. xo

  8. And, if it works, here's a link to at least the 1st page of what I believe is the elk study in Yellowstone: http://www.jstor.org/pss/3783054

  9. I bought those uv decals you recommended. I think they're working. So far there's been only one glancing blow since I put them up; the junco was already turning away.

  10. Wow, bb. I'm going to have to reread your reply comments when I have more time. I was really sad about the bird dying and I wondered if my picking it up hindered its ability to recover... but it was cold outside and I didn't want to just leave it - maybe I should have?

    So often we, as humans, want to help the creatures of this world, but it doesn't always turn out so good. Case in point, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's recent white shark, held captive for months as a display, died within days of releasing it out in the wild: http://montereybayaquarium.typepad.com/sea_notes/2011/11/sad-news-death-of-a-great-white-shark.html

    I'm still not sure if I should order those stickers.


Cool people write inside rectangles....