Monday, April 30, 2012

Robins ?

Many people who know us know that Helen and I have a certain empathy for animals. Before we were married, we took in a stray dog that had apparently been abandoned in a shopping center in mid winter. Calls to various dog pounds and ads in the paper did not get the attention of the owner so we kept her. We had her from February of 1967 until 1980. Since then we have had a number of rescue dogs and all have been excellent pets.

Over the years we, and by that I mean Helen, have also raised some orphan animals. Back in Massachusetts she raised Chipper Magoo, a naked, eyes closed, gray squirrel when I found him. He eventually went out on his own and resided in the woods out back until he wandered away. Around the same time Helen took in a pair of baby robins, Robin and Springer, who had been evicted from their nest by a hurricane. This was a new experience for us. Generally people would put a baby bird in a box with some water and bread and expect then to survive. Helen actively took on the role of Mama and hand fed them using tweezers. A local bait shop was our supplier of worms, but Helen would also turn on an outside light and wait with a fly swatter to gather bugs for the birds.

A surprising thing Helen noticed, the two birds had distinctly different personalities. Robin was more drawn to Helen and Springer was more remote. Eventually, they grew up and were released. Springer was probably out in the woods someplace, but Robin would fly back to the house from time to time and sit on the windowsill behind the kitchen sink looking at Helen.

Moving to Florida, we again were raising animals. A woman I worked with brought us a baby gray squirrel that her cat had caught. There was some damage to the critter and when it sat up it wobbled, almost falling over. That was Weebles. We raised her and released her to our back yard and she lived in a squirrel house I mounted in the trees. But that was only for a short time. Innate patterns came to the front and she made several nests of her own. We could always recognize Weebles by the mark on her face left over from her cat attack. Helen would go out in the yard and whistle. Weebles would come running from someplace, run up to Helen's shoulder and chatter away, like she was actually trying to say something. Some time later, we saw her with a family of her own and when Helen whistled, she let her young stay at a distance while she joined Helen in a brief chat. One day on my way home, I found a dead squirrel out on the street. I was saddened to see the white mark on her face because I knew it was Weebles. I hated to tell Helen, but I couldn't have Helen whistling outside thinking our squirrel was still there.

After that, Helen came across a round, gray fur ball about the size of a golf ball on the neighbor's lawn. Though we didn't recognize it immediately, it was a baby flying squirrel. I had never seen one before but when we saw the huge eyes and the flap of skin between the front and rear legs, it had to be a flying squirrel, and he became Widget. He was a riot as he had the run of the house much of the time. We had a cage for him in our bedroom where he slept away the days in a little cardboard home I placed his cage. Flying squirrels are nocturnal, so he didn't become active until night time. Having lights on at night would keep him in his house, but the light from the TV didn't bother him. So, we enjoyed his antics while watching Johnny Carson. He would climb the drapes and then glide across the room, run back and climb, and glide once more. Then he found that he could fit under the door and he was gone. One night we found him on top of the living room drapes gazing at the Christmas tree.

Helen and I took him outside one early evening to get him used to the woods. As I said earlier, I had never seen a flying squirrel. We sat in a small copse of trees behind the house with Widget on Helen's lap and we were looking up into the still light sky. Suddenly we saw a square shape flit from one tree to another. Widget was up like a shot and up the tree. I'm not sure that we ever saw Widget again, but I put a feeding station on one of the trees and we had plenty of visitors. I got a red light for illumination and Helen and I could sit out there and watch them. One night we had 28 flying squirrels at one time. It was beautiful and comical at the same time.

This brings us to Helen's latest adventure. In an earlier blog I mentioned our friends from Missouri and how there were three baby birds that fell out of his camper when he went to unhook. They may be robins, but we don't really know for sure yet. Helen was on the computer a day or two ago looking for names for triplets. She settled for Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, and she can tell them apart. From the beginning we could see that Nod was a bit under developed as he was trampled by his siblings. A bigger area solved that problem but he was always something less developed than his kin. Late yesterday morning Nod was doing poorly and Helen tried to do her best. In the end she lost Nod and she takes this very seriously.

Here are Wynken, Blyken, and Nod in their first nest, in the bottom of a bucket. You can already see that two are more aggressive than the third.

Now the nest has been moved into our bird/squirrel rescue cage.

Getting a little time outside. They will be released and will not be cage bound pets.

This is one of the birds, but I can not tell them apart. It's starting to look like something other than a robin and we would hope someone can identify the type before they are full grown.

Momma Helen hand feeding the birds. The secret is the hand feeding. Young chicks cannot feed themselves but wait for mom to come back and put food down their craws.


  1. Have known many animal lovers in my lifetime, but none can compare to the huge hearts you both have and the dedication to helpless animals. Just know you are very special people. Heck you even took in three other strays, sam, donna and riggs

  2. Perhaps starlings? They sure don't look like robins to me.