An autumn storm during the night poured torrents and skittered lightening across the sky. Three robin chicks lay among the debris scattered on the driveway the following morning. Two were dead. One half frozen bird still gasped. I didn’t have the heart to give up on the fragile creature without an effort.
I snuggled his featherless body into a towel and placed a heating pad under one end of a shoebox to thaw him. The veterinarian said a hatchling had a slight chance of survival with a diet of canned cat food and liquid vitamins. I fed him a slurry of these ingredients every two hours using an eyedropper.
Cheepster overcame the disadvantage of having a human parent. His eyes popped open, beady and bright. His plumage grew and he began to resemble a robin instead of a scrawny lump with a huge open beak. I bought more cat food to satisfy his voracious appetite and supplied a larger home.
I rigged a dowel rod through the mesh of a plastic laundry basket to provide a perch. Who needs the guilt of causing a splayfooted robin? On fine days I hung his basket in a tree to acclimate him to heights and natural sounds. I throttled my squeamish feelings and strewed bait in the grass to encourage Cheeps to forage.
My feathered resident followed me everywhere. I taught Cheepster to fly by jogging in a circle in the yard moving faster into a trot. The neighborhood kids parked their bikes and sat cross-legged on the sidewalk rooting for Cheeps until he struggled from hopping into flight to keep up. I shot a roll of film in my excitement the day he flew from the ground to a low hanging branch.
Within three weeks, Cheepster fed himself and took a few wobbly teaser flights into trees. After an absence, he’d land on the roof and fuss until I let him back into his basket to roost for the night.
I always planned to release him into the forest where he belonged. Cheeps wouldn’t withstand a harsh midwestern winter. Friends suggested I inquire into the cost of coach airfare to transport a robin to the Sunbelt. Cheepster could bask in balmy breezes while I shoveled snow. Cheeps took care of the dilemma on his own.
I cried the day I lost sight of him feeding within a flock of robins at the base of a blazing red maple. He blended with his kind and claimed his heritage that morning. I never saw the rascal again.
We’ve ravaged our earth of precious resources. Pollution, famine and disease are strangling populations. We destroy our home when we decimate wildlife habitat. Let’s cherish the intrinsic worth of all Creation and begin a different approach for renewal. Value the commonplace. The least of Nature will teach us how to protect our star from pillage until she thrives again. Birds use only what they need and return pride, industry, beauty and joyful song.