Held Hostage by Wild Animals

It seems lately as if several species of wild animals have been stopping Russ and I from our normal activities. These include a song sparrow, mallards, and wasps.

It all began on Fourth of July weekend when, in preparation for mowing, I was cleaning up sticks that had fallen from the many birches that abound in our cabin yard. Every time I approached our fire ring to drop off a load of sticks, a small brown bird would fly away.

I thought the bird was coming from inside the fire ring. I looked around for evidence of a possible nest there but could not find any. So, I mowed the yard.

Song sparrow eggs. Image credit: Rich Mooney

I mentioned the mysterious bird to Russ, saying I thought maybe it had a nest nearby. It was later in the day when Russ was moving a pile of sticks we had a few feet away from the fire ring into the ring so we could have a major 4th of July blaze that he called me over. “Look!” he said, pointing to something at the base of the brush pile. Sure enough, it was a nest with a clutch of four to five eggs inside. The eggs were bluish-brown and spotted. The mother bird was nowhere to be seen. I must have traumatized her with my mowing.

We quickly added some sticks back atop the nest in a poor approximation of the shelter the pile had offered before. Then we hightailed it away from the fire ring. We didn’t want to encourage the mother to stay off her nest any longer than we already (unintentionally) had.

The day was warm, so I hoped the eggs had not suffered greatly from the mother’s absence while I had mowed. Still, we worried we may have scared her away forever.

A few hours later, I couldn’t help but check to see if she had returned to the nest. I carefully approached and peered through the grass and brush. The bird was back! I slowly retreated to leave her in peace.

Our plans for a fun campfire with friends and relatives over the 4th of July holiday evaporated. If we had a fire, we’d be baking some poor baby birds in their eggs. We didn’t want that on our conscience. When our cabin guests arrived, we let them know why we wouldn’t be having any fires that weekend. They were good sports about it.

Then, the evening before we were to return home, I was about to go out to our dock and retrieve my paddleboard, which was attached to a dock pole with its leg strap. Storms were supposed to roll in by morning and I wanted my board safe inside the boat house.

As I looked out the cabin window at my paddleboard on the lake in the evening gloom, I noticed an unusual dark shape on our dock. It looked like a duck was sitting there, right above where my paddleboard was wedged in the water between two of the dock supports.

A mother mallard and her ducklings. Image credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

I mentioned to Russ that we had a duck on our dock, and when he looked at the scene, he discerned a bunch of smaller shapes on my paddleboard. We’d seen a mother mallard and her four ducklings swimming around our dock earlier in the day. Could they have decided to stay the night?

I took a closer look, and sure enough, the mother mallard was guarding her brood, who were nestled all cozy and cute against the life jacket I had strapped to my paddleboard.

What kind of heartless human could disturb them? Not me. I decided that stowing my board could wait until morning.

Of course, in the morning when I checked, baby duck poop covered my board. The ducklings must have spent the entire night on it. But that was easy enough to clean. I just turned the board over so that the top of it soaked in the lake for a while.

The next weekend we did not return to our cabin since we were on a trip to Isle Royale National Park (which I will describe in a later post). When we returned home from that excursion, Russ got stung several times while he walked up our back steps.

Wasps had built a hive in our absence under the top step. They were coming and going from a small crack between two boards. We couldn’t easily see the nest from underneath due to the cover provided by our day lilies.

What the heck, were the animals taking over? I mean, I’m an animal lover, but I was beginning to feel nervous.

Inconvenience by birds is one thing. Wasps are something different. I’m all for leaving wildlife in peace, but not when it comes to them controlling ingress and egress from my house.

We were too busy to deal with the hive for a few days, so we used the front door of our house instead. It was inconvenient, but better than risking stings.

One evening, when we hoped the wasps were drowsy, we donned our head nets and gloves. We used a broom handle to lay down the lilies along the side of the porch to see if we could pinpoint the hive’s location to spray it with some deadly wasp and yellowjacket foam.

I could not see where the hive was and I really didn’t want to stick my head any farther under the porch in this attempt, so Russ and I decided to spray the foam through the crack the bees were using to enter their hive.

This seemed mostly successful, although a wasp or two were still flying around the next day, so I put on my brave lady pants and stuck my head under the porch far enough to get a good shot at the nest with the spray this time. The nest wasn’t that large, and no insects emerged from the porch crack when I sprayed it, so maybe they were all gone by then. For good measure, we sprayed the crack one more time.

I think we successfully reclaimed our porch.

The next time we visited our cabin, we checked the nest by the fire ring and it was empty. It had been two weeks since we last saw it. I wondered, could the nestlings fledge that quickly? I hoped they could, and that the emptiness wasn’t because the mother had abandoned the nest.

A song sparrow. Image credit: Steven Mlodinow

As we sat around the fire ring that night enjoying a crackling fire, a song sparrow sang from the woods nearby. With its trilling notes, it almost sounded as if this bird were thanking us for allowing her to nest in peace. Could it have been a song sparrow that had been holding our fire ring hostage previously?

I looked up the bird’s appearance and what its eggs looked like on the internet. Yes, I think it must have indeed been a song sparrow. The site I visited said that song sparrow young can fledge in 10-12 days, so it’s possible that the empty nest could have signaled a successful brood – they would have had enough time to fledge while we were gone.

The other thing the site said was that song sparrows can have up to seven broods in a season and that they often use the same nesting site.

The next day when I mowed the lawn, I made sure to aim for that nest.

Pelican Spring

An American white pelican comes in for a landing on the St. Louis River, MN. The bump on its bill denotes that it’s a breeding bird. The bump falls off after the birds have mated and laid eggs.

Last week I took the long way home from work. My route took me past Chambers Grove Park, which is in the far western part of Duluth, along the St. Louis River. I had heard that the pelicans were back, resting there on a stopover during their migration north, and I wanted to see them.

I brought my camera in case the birds were close enough for me to photograph. Alas, the experience reinforced my thought that I really need to buy a more powerful telephoto lens! Also, the light was right in my face, harsh and white, fading out everything on the far side of the river where the pelicans rested.

Luckily, a few were flying around, and I was able to get at least one good shot.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, pelicans were “virtually unseen in Minnesota between the late 1800s and 1960s. Fishermen destroyed them out of the erroneous belief that they competed for game fish, and pesticides took a toll.” They mostly prefer nongame fish and do not compete with anglers.

No pelicans in this shot (but they are nearby). I just liked the cloud and water patterns. St. Louis River, MN.

Thanks to environmental reforms and protection, their numbers have recovered. Minnesota boasts one of the largest populations of nesting white pelicans in the world. I thought I’d share my photos from my sojourn with you.

If you’d like to see some better, close-up images of the birds, please visit Richard Hoeg’s blog, “365 Days of Birds” for some great shots.

Despite the snow we’ve been having lately, their presence is a sure sign that spring is coming.

Pondering Peregrines

Pergrine falcon. Photo by Frank Cone on Pexels.com

One summer, not long ago, I was walking down my home street in Duluth when a pigeon came streaking above it, like the proverbial bat out of hell. A flock of pigeons lived in an old school building on the end of my street. Seeing pigeons around was not unusual, but I’d never seen one fly so fast. In another few seconds, a peregrine falcon zoomed by in pursuit.

This minidrama was a first for my quiet neighborhood, as far as I know. The birds were too far away for me to see if the pigeon was doomed, but witnessing the chase was definitely exciting.

Not long ago, peregrines were classified as an endangered species in Minnesota and the rest of the country. They were delisted federally in 1999 and in Minnesota in 2013, although they are still considered a species of special concern.

I’ve had the privilege of documenting and even helping a bit with their recovery, so seeing one fly down my street did my heart good. It all began in the spring of 1985 when I was the environmental reporter for the University of Minnesota college newspaper, “The Minnesota Daily.” A photographer and I were invited to the top of the IDS Tower (also known as the Multifoods Tower, the tallest structure in the city at that time) for a peregrine falcon media event. Staff from the university’s raptor center and biology department were going to install chicks that had hatched in a hack box that had been newly established atop the tower.

Hack boxes are large wooden boxes with a nest inside them. Young birds of prey grown from eggs that were either captive bred or taken from wild nests are placed inside the boxes a couple of weeks before they fledge (start trying to fly). In the meantime, the birds are closely looked after and provided food without too much human contact. In a few days, the box is opened, and the birds can start stretching their wings, so to speak. They are still fed until they are self-sufficient.

Why was it a good idea to introduce falcons into the middle of the city? Well, Minneapolis contained plenty of food for the falcons (pigeons), the skyscraper mimicked their preferred habitat (steep cliffs), natural enemies were scarce, and it was an easy place for researchers to access.

I remember the excitement when one of the researchers (Pat Redig) took a squawking, fluffy baby falcon out of a carrier to put into the box. As he did, he described the plight of the birds and the concept behind hacking. Photographers clicked away and reporters scribbled in their notebooks. We were able to wander around atop the building and look over the impressive edge, 51 stories high – a memorable experience in itself.

A pre-event story I wrote about that news conference ended up being 40 newspaper column inches long. This was longer than usual. My editor (Doug Iverson) asked me to justify why he should give me such a large space. I don’t remember what I said (probably something like, “because peregrine falcons are cool!”), but it must have worked because he didn’t cut its length. The post-event story I wrote made page 1 of the newspaper, which was a big deal to this cub reporter.

The next time peregrines came into my life was a couple years later when I was a summer volunteer for the Forest Service on the LaCroix Ranger District in Cook, Minnesota. My boss (Steve Hoecker), was a falconer and he was involved in the recovery effort. A hack box was being constructed on one of the iron ore mine pits nearby in Virginia, MN. Like the IDS Tower, the mine featured steep cliffs that peregrines prefer.

My memory of this experience is hazier than the IDS Tower event, but I think I helped Steve scramble box construction materials down the steep banks of the mine. I took photos and covered the story for the local newspaper.

The next time I saw a falcon, it was in the wild. I was hiking on Isle Royale, a national park island in Lake Superior in the early 1990s with a group from an Audubon Society camp, when a peregrine shot across and above the trail in front of us, like a kamikaze jet. The island features some steep cliffs as does the Canadian shore not far away where the falcons could nest. I remember thinking that maybe all the work being done to restore the falcons was beginning to pay off.

After that, my last experience with a falcon (before seeing the one on my street) was in downtown Rochester, Minnesota. It happened during the winter of 2009 when I was working at Mayo Clinic in public affairs. I lived within walking distance of my office. As I trudged along on cold winter days and evenings, a strange call of a bird echoed loudly against the clinic building walls. The call was familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place it. And what kind of bird would still be in Minnesota in February, for goodness sakes?

It took me a few months, but I finally figured out that the obnoxious bird call that accompanied my walking commutes was a falcon. They had been hacked atop one of the clinic buildings. I think I was even able to attend some sort of celebration event about the project at Mayo that year.

If you’d like more information about the history of peregrine recovery in Minnesota, a good article can be found here.

So, it seems like peregrines have been following me around ever since my first encounter with them in downtown Minneapolis. Or have I been following them around? Maybe we’ve been following each other. In any event, their recovery is a good news story in a world beset by so many environmental problems.

Bog Birding Bust

I have heard about the Sax-Zim Bog in northern Minnesota for years, decades even. During winter, it’s a birding mecca – home to many rare owls and other species that visit from the arctic when food and weather conditions get too dicey up there. Birding is good during summer, too. The bog is a place where birds can nest in their natural habitat, relatively undisturbed.

Russ and I had a chance to visit the bog over Labor Day weekend. I’m getting back into birding and was excited to finally be seeing this place I had heard so much about. It’s even mentioned twice in “The Big Year,” a 2011 movie that stars Rosamund Pike, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin. However, no filming was done on-site, so viewers never get to see the bog. The closest is when Owen Wilson’s character spends Christmas at a Chinese restaurant in Duluth, which is about fifty miles away. I suspect even the restaurant was fictional because it didn’t look like any I’ve ever seen in my hometown.

The Welcome Center

Anyway, so I was psyched to visit the bog. I thought since migration season had started, we might have a good opportunity to see birds moving through the area. We pulled up to the visitor center (which is closed now, opens mid-December through mid-March) and hiked the trails that go out from it. There’s a loop trail that starts at the parking lot and a Gray Jay Way that begins at the visitor center.

After all these years of anticipation, maybe I was expecting too much. We only saw a thrush (probably a Swainson’s), blue jays, and the chickadees and nuthatches found everywhere in the north. I was disappointed.

But it was neat getting a close look at a bog and learning the history of the area from the interpretive signs near the welcome center. For instance, I never knew that Jeno Paulucci, famed creator of Pizza Rolls and Chung King foods had a celery farm near the bog.

Gray Jay Way ends with a viewing platform where visitors can see the remnants of ditches that were dug in the early 1900s to drain the bog land for farming. Russ and I pushed through the undergrowth for a better look at the ditch junction. The dark bog water lay acidic and still on the landscape, lending an eerie air to the place.

On our way home, we stopped at one of three boardwalks in the bog: The Warren Woessner walk. We marveled at all the work that must have gone into its construction. We had a pleasant walk but didn’t see any more birds.

When I got home, I asked the executive director of the Friends of the Sax-Zim Bog what was up with the lack of birds. Was this just a bad time to look? Sparky Stensaas said this is the worst time of the year for birding in the bog. Just my luck!

Sparky and I go way back to when we used to be on the board of the local Audubon Society chapter. He took over editing the chapter newsletter from me a loooong time ago. Or did I take over from him?

Sparky also said that the visitor center is only open during the winter because that’s when 90% of the visitors come, but that they probably won’t be open this winter due to COVID. Guess I’ll have to content myself with watching the videos Sparky made this spring and summer, which show there really ARE birds in the bog.

So, don’t be like me. Don’t go birding at the Sax-Zim Bog in September.

Book Review: Hawks on High


Phil Fitzpatrick talks about his book “Hawks on High” recently at Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minn.

It’s about time someone wrote a book of poems about Hawk Ridge in Duluth. And it took a newcomer to do it. Author Phil Fitzpatrick (Hawks on High: Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season) has only been coming to the popular bird migration counting station on the ridge for two years. However, with his “new eyes,” that was long enough for him to amass enough poems for this book. His poems are combined with pen and ink drawings by artist Penny Perry.

My favorite poem is “Pringles Prize.” It describes how the hawk ridge workers use Pringles potato chip cans to contain the hawks they catch in mist nets on the ridge. Once the hawks are slipped into the cans, their legs can be easily banded for later identification. Before a hawk is released, the birder eases it “from its cardboard confines” for a short show-and-tell to the gathered bird-watchers. Then it “lifts above wide-eyed kids who now love hawks even more than Pringles.”

Love the wonder and subtle humor of that ending! I gave “Hawks on High” five out of five stars on Goodreads.

Attack of the Killer Turkeys

Today I meandered over to a gathering at the home of some friends who live in the woods outside of town. I had been to their house before, but this time was different. Instead of my friends meeting me once I got out of my car, I was met by some wild turkeys. Two toms and a hen walked up to my driver’s door before I could get out. The toms were both displaying in an aggressive manner and the hen pecked the ground a few feet away.

It unnerved me that the turkeys knew which car door I would exit. “This can’t be good,” I thought. After futilely waiting a few minutes for them to budge, I decided on an alternate exit strategy. I clambered over the stick shift console and went out the passenger door.

20170507_104836The turkeys immediately spotted me and followed. I walked faster. They walked faster. Soon I was running for my life to the house door. Just in time, my friend opened the door. She deterred the turkeys with a big stick and ushered me quickly into the house. I swear the turkeys would have followed me right inside, had it not been for that stick.

She apologized for the turkeys, saying they “just showed up” about a month ago. Although the turkeys live in the woods, they are obviously imprinted on people for food.

Despite trying several methods, the only way my friends have found to deal with them is to carry sticks whenever they go out. My friends say the turkeys also stand at their sliding glass doors and watch them while they watch television. Creepy!

As others arrived for the gathering, our main source of entertainment was watching their various reactions to the attack turkeys. Most people got off easier than I did because my friends made it out there sooner with their sticks.

Once I eventually left, the turkeys chased my car the whole way down the long driveway, as if getting back at me for my earlier escape. They kept at it until I was able to leave them in a cloud of dust on the main road.

Wild turkeys have been in the news lately because they are becoming more common in northern Minnesota. People are wondering if the department of natural resources (DNR) has stocked them or something. Nope, says the department.

In my travels between the southern and northern parts of Minnesota over the years, I have noticed turkeys along the highway. Every year, they are farther north. (Opossums are coming, too. Yuk!) I guess it was just a matter of time before they reached my friends’ yard.

The DNR calls the turkeys’ range expansion “one of Minnesota’s greatest conservation success stories.” Last year, the DNR expanded the turkey hunt to include all of northeastern Minnesota. The spring season is open from now until May 31.

Turkey hunters, if you are having trouble finding your prey, I know where a couple are. Just ask. 🙂

Stalking the Wild Puffin, and Seals on a Conveyor Belt: Adventures in Scotland, Part 4


Puffins at the Bullars of Buchan.

One of the reasons my friend and I went to Scotland in June was for the chance to see puffins before they left their breeding grounds. My friend studied these seabirds when she was in graduate school, and she wanted to see them again. Me too. As you may already know, I have a thing for birds.


Troup Head gannets.

Our first try involved a short trip from our cottage at Crovie Village to Troup Head, a nature reserve less than a mile away. The reserve is home to a gannet colony, but puffins are sometimes sighted there, too. I had only seen one gannet in my life (in Newfoundland, sort of by accident). I was thrilled by that, so you can imagine how overwhelming it was to see so many gannets on Troup Head, they were impossible to count. And the view from the cliffs is stunning!


The view from Troup Head.

But, no puffins. The next day, we ended up visiting the director and staff at the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit (who I will write more about next) in Gardenstown, the town next door to Crovie, and mentioned our plight. They recommended we try the Bullars of Buchan, a former fishing village on the coast on the way to Aberdeen. We also wanted to see seals, and they recommended the estuary of the River Ythan in the town of Newburgh, not far from the puffins.


The Bullars of Buchan.

So off we went. OMG, the scenery at the bullars was as spectacular as the scenery at Troup Head. The village is set atop a headland that features a collapsed sea cave that forms a “pot” about 100 feet deep. The seabird colony was home mainly for gulls but my sharp-eyed friend did find some puffins. And a few were close enough to photograph with our low-tech cameras. Score!

Next to find the seals. You’d think they’d be in a nature preserve, too, but they’re not. To find them, drive through the town of Newburgh and follow the Beach Road. You can park right near the estuary. A short walk through the dunes finds you at the river mouth. We were expecting to see a seal colony on land, but what we got was more like a watery conveyor belt of seals.


Grey seals in the River Ythan.

The tide was flowing upriver. The seals were floating, somewhat evenly spaced, from the sea into the river. Their black heads bobbed past those of us watching from shore with clockwork regularity. Seal head dots everywhere – weird but amazing. Sometimes one would dive, no doubt after a fish, and then resurface farther up river. I suppose when the tide reverses, the seals just float back out into the ocean. We watched for a long time, mesmerized.

Other natural wonders we saw were of a more geologic kind. We hiked a good ways. One trip found us along the coast on the way from the town of Cullen to Portknockie, home of the famous, craggy and triangular Bow Fiddle Rock (see image at the end of this post). I can’t help but think it would make a great scene for an album cover. Too bad I’m not a musician!

001Another hike found us on the Great Glen Way above Loch Ness, making our way through primeval forests and gorse hedges with mountains in the background for accompaniment. I never got to see Loch Ness on my ill-fated European trip when I was ten, so I was especially glad to make it there.

Every place where I travel that has an aquarium, I try to visit. I “collect” aquarium visits like some people collect refrigerator magnets from their travels. In planning our trip, I was excited to discover that Macduff, a town not far away from Crovie, had a small aquarium focused on marine fish. The children in Scotland were still in school, and I was heartened to see several busloads of them gaining a greater appreciation for the sea while we were there. Although the Macduff Aquarium is small, they do a great job on interpretation.

The next day, we got a greater appreciation for marine mammals and the local people who are trying to protect them when we visited with the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit – to come in the next installment!


Marie at Bow Fiddle Rock.

Hiking and Emoting for the Climate

ClimateWalkThis past weekend I joined about 175 other people in an event to raise awareness about climate change. If you’ve read my novel, “Plover Landing,” you know that climate disruption (as some are now calling it) is a topic addressed in it, and it’s a cause near and dear to me.

The event was held in a church near Duluth’s Lakewalk – a boardwalk that follows the shore of Lake Superior. Several speakers kicked things off inside the church, and it was interesting to see who the players are, and which politicians are devoted to this issue. It was also fun being with other people who have similar concerns. I’m not sure whether our message will reach from Duluth to the climate summit in Paris, but perhaps this blog will help!

After the talks, we hiked on the Lakewalk, along Lake Superior – one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, but also one that is showing marked effects of climate change.

During the talks, which were heartfelt and inspiring, I found myself impatient with the lack of factual information in them. Speakers mentioned their observations of changes in behavior in animals and weather but admitted they didn’t know if it was directly due to climate change or not. They admitted knowing scientists they could ask about these things, but apparently, none of them did.

No one mentioned the impacts of climate change on the lake, facts which are readily available from local organizations, and I assume, was the reason the event was held on its shores.

I realized that listening to talks filled with too much emotion and few facts was as frustrating as the last climate event I attended — a talk by the state climatologist (see It’s Climate Change, Stupid!) where there were too many facts and not enough emotion.

Somewhere, there’s got to be a happy medium, but I haven’t heard a local speaker yet who is able to mix climate change facts and emotion in a compelling way. That needs to be done for this issue to reach the widest range of people, and to have an effect. And don’t you start looking at me (Smirk). Seriously, I’m a better writer than talker, and my way of contributing to the issue is through my novel (and this blog).

One of the best heart-twisting climate change stories I heard was from a bird biologist and author. She said that in her talks, she doesn’t even mention the term climate change, but she describes how winter thaws, which are becoming more frequent, can kill baby birds.


Image of a gray jay by Zachaysan (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The species in question is the gray jay. These curious birds are a cousin of the blue jay, but don’t have the pointy head or the bright plumage. I’ve often seen them deep in the woods, where, with whisper-quiet wings, they like to follow hikers and campers. The biologist said that the birds hide small pieces of meat or berries under the bark of trees in winter as food caches for their babies, which hatch in late winter.

If there’s a mid-winter thaw, the food spoils. The parents can’t tell if it’s spoiled though, and when their babies hatch, they feed them the rotten food and the chicks die. The biologist teared up as she described it, and I almost stated bawling right during her talk, too. But then, I’m a bird person. Although we humans may rejoice in a winter thaw, such unusual events can mess up other species.

Not to dismiss the efforts and emotions of the people at my local climate event, but I came away from it thinking that we need more stories like the one about the gray jays – stories from people who know their facts but aren’t afraid to add emotions to them.

We Only Shoot the Things We Love

A male wood duck. Image credit: “Brautente 2008-03-21 065” by BS Thurner Hof – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

Dating horror stories – so miserable at the time but so fun to reminisce about after the dust has settled. And so fun to read. Here’s my contribution.

I met a man and, after a few weeks, visited his house for the first time. His place as well-cared for and impressive – until I got to the den. The walls were covered with taxidermied ducks. Now, I’m okay with hunting. I realize that meat needs to come from somewhere, and that hunting is sort of a dying art. But I soon discovered my date was hunting for a whole ‘nother reason.

His reason came to light when I couldn’t help but comment on the wood duck he had among his collection. Now, male wood ducks are like the Mr. Universe of the duck world. As you can see from the photo, they’re beautiful. They’re also rather rare in these parts. They nest in large holes in trees on the water. They don’t hurt anybody. And as faithful readers of my blog know, I have a thing for birds.

I made some sort of comment like – “Oh, and you’ve got a wood duck. They’re so beautiful….”

“That’s why I shot it,” he said.

Immediately, an irrational part of my woman dater’s brain thought: If this is what he does to things he finds beautiful, what will he do to things he loves? Heat-seeking missiles, maybe bombs? It reminded me of a quote from the poem by Oscar Wilde (“The Ballad of Reading Gaol”), “For each man kills the thing he loves…”

Of course, I know that there’s a big difference between killing a duck and killing a human, but try telling that to my primitive brain.

That relationship didn’t go very far.

My Good Deed for the Day/Week/Month

The ring-necked pheasant I transported last week. Photo courtesy of Wildwoods Rehabilitation Center.

The ring-necked pheasant I transported last week. Photo courtesy of Wildwoods Rehabilitation Center.

When I was growing up, my mom used to encourage us to look for helpful things to do for others or the community. Sometimes it was picking up trash along a roadside, sometimes it was giving directions to lost tourists. Opportunities to help are all around, and she wanted us to be aware and take action when we could.

Last week my opportunity came when a local wildlife rehabilitation center was looking for someone to transport a female ring-necked pheasant to its “forever home” a couple of hours away. I just happened to be going that direction, so I volunteered to have an avian passenger along for the ride.

The pheasant was found by someone’s dog. She had wounds on her side and her foot was clenched into a ball and not usable. The center fixed her up with two weeks of wound care and an orthotic to open up her foot. They suspect she was being used to train a retrieving dog. Pheasants are an introduced species and are not commonly found in this area.

A farm sanctuary that specializes in domesticated birds and deer offered to take her, so that’s where I came in. I picked her up in a carrier from the center and put her in the back seat. She must have liked listening to my book on CD because I didn’t hear even one literal peep from her the whole trip. I met the farm people at a highway exit gas station and we made the transfer.

Yay – good deed done. My mom would be proud. Sometimes opportunities for these deeds are few and far between, but keep your eyes open and you might be surprised by how many come to your attention.