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Bird evades capture

friends catch up

October 05, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

In this column, I previously have confessed my lifelong irrational fear of birds.

I marvel at the colors and intricacy of their plumage. I'm amazed by their nest-building and migratory abilities. I enjoy watching them from behind the safety of a window. But they scare me.

When I mention my ornithophobia, people often respond by suggesting that Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film "The Birds" must really have terrified me.

Pshaw.

The sound of fluttering wings, the mere thought of scaly, clawed, bird feet can evoke in me a panic well beyond anything actress Tippi Hedren portrayed in the horror flick.

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So it was with mixed emotions that I noticed a large crow in my neighbor's front yard a few weeks ago.

It appeared to be injured. Dragging a wing, it would hobble a couple of steps, tip over, then rest before starting out again. I watched as it struggled across the street, and finally stopped in the shade of my sweet gum tree.

Oh, noooooooo!

What to do? What to do?

I wanted to help, but rescuing a crow is far beyond my abilities -- physical or emotional.

My after-hours call to Washington County Humane Society led me to an emergency number. My recollection that the agency doesn't do wildlife rescue was correct. I left a message at the Department of Natural Resources phone number and at another number I found in the telephone directory. I called a couple of friends I thought might know. I called the Washington County Free Library's reference desk and left a message there.

Next, as a last resort, I called The Herald-Mail newsroom to see ifĂ‚ any of my colleagues had other sources. I say "last resort" because I didn't want to distract my fellow staffers from reporting and editing news that's fit to print.

My friend Sharon answered the phone and was gone a long time before she returned to tell me that nobody had a number, but "Jake will come out to get it."

"Jake" happens to be Jake Womer, this newspaper's executive editor and a good friend. By choosing to accept this mission, he became my hero.

Meanwhile a librarian called back and gave me a Baltimore-area number for wildlife rescue. The person who answered that call provided numbers for two local licensed operations.

Eureka!

I spoke with Barbara and Michael Main of Little Wonders Animal Rescue near Clear Spring. Michael, who mentioned that they were caring for 150 rescued critters, doesn't pick them up but agreed to a rendezvous near Clear Spring. That arrangement, of course, assumed that Jake could catch the crow.

He certainly tried. So did a couple of my neighbors who wondered why a gloved man was sneaking down the street with a bedsheet and a cardboard box. They hadn't noticed the crow -- who, by the time Jake arrived, was feeling well enough to fly about eight inches off the ground, landing 10 feet farther away on each hop.

The crow evaded the rescue crew. It probably was scared, but crows are smart.

Awhile ago, I'd heard a radio interview with Candace Savage, author of "Crows: Encounters With the Wise Guys of the Avian World." I'd also read that a New Zealand study reported that crows manufacture and use tools to forage for food, an activity performed by very few other animals.

I like to think it was just a little trick to give Jake and me a long overdue opportunity to catch up, if not catch the bird.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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