The Yellow Starlings

The Yellow Starlings
Location
Oregon, USA
Bio
We are Zooey and Franny, sibling starlings who have been living with our mama and daddy since we were fledglings. This blog is Mama’s record of our adventures with us, beginning in May 2006.

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JULY 31, 2009 1:38PM

A Room of Their Own

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Defiant Fledgling

 

 

When you have never cared for beings so fragile you don’t know if they’ll last the night, you find yourself surprised by resilience. Not only had Franny and Zooey survived a thirty-foot tumble from their nest in the ceiling, but they had gone for several hours without food or water—not to mention the warmth of their mother’s wings enfolding their half-naked bodies. They had weathered our first day together, but we prepared ourselves for heartbreak as we tucked them in for what I would later learn was the most vulnerable period in a fledgling’s rescue: the first night.

 

The next morning, we anxiously climbed the stairs and tiptoed into their room. As we peered over the edge of their makeshift nest, Franny and Zooey gazed back at us, their bright beaks gaping.

 

Those early days together were full of firsts. On May 26, 2006, a little over a week after Franny and Zooey’s arrival, I noted:

 

     first splashing

 

Such a small note for such a significant moment in their lives. Anyone who knows about starlings knows they love to splash. They get downright ecstatic. If only I had thought to videotape that first splashing. But then I wouldn’t have been fully present to savor that proud moment with them. Of course, now I can’t recall the moment in any degree of detail, so I still have regrets about not recording it. I now have to wonder how exuberant they were. Was it just a tentative dip of their beaks into the water? Was that the first drink they’d taken on their own? I suspect it was, as my journal entry from May 27 implies they didn’t actually hop into the water and engage in full, exclamation-point splashing until the next day:

 

     first bath! (splash!)

 

It was a week before I finally persuaded Michael to let me take pictures of them. He worried the camera would scare them, but as fledglings they were less fazed by the introduction of a strange object than they would later be as adults. They hadn’t yet learned to be weary of newness. Most of the pictures I did take turned out rather poorly, since I was so self-conscious about traumatizing them and just caught a few snatches before guiltily putting the camera away.

 

 

Bird in Bed

 

 

Michael and I guessed from their respective sizes that Zooey was perhaps a day older than Franny. He was a tad larger and always a day or so ahead in his feathering. We never determined for certain how old they were when we first found them, but judging from this progression of photos at Starling Talk, I would put them at about nine or ten days old. They had most of their feathers in, but there was still quite a bit of pink flesh visible underneath, and you could see little pin feathers starting to poke through their delicate skin.

 

 

Window Watching

 

 

We also guessed that Zooey might be a male because he was both larger and more aggressive, while the petite Franny struck us as more female. Gender stereotypes, perhaps, but given how difficult it is to sex a starling, we went with our guesses for the time being, knowing we might need to amend our assumptions later on when the distinguishing signs became more pronounced.

 

 

Handfeeding

 

 

Even after a week, the fledglings still relied on regular hand-feedings, although the intervals became further apart as they aged: from 20 minutes, to 30, to 45, and eventually, an hour. Because Michael works at home, he was able to attend to this relentless schedule of feedings during the day, while I took over the evening shift when I got home. On May 28, I wrote:

 

     Mama on feeding duty

     while Daddy takes a

     long-needed nap . . .

 

We had read that whoever spends the most time feeding the fledglings during the imprinting phase is the one the birds will tend to bond with the most, so I worried they would develop a preference for Michael. Thankfully, Franny and Zooey were nondiscriminating, and they were just as delighted to balance on my arm while I stuck little globs of formula down their throats as they were on Michael’s.

 

Franny and Zooey quickly became integrated into our daily lives. In what we once thought a watertight schedule of work and nonstop creative projects, we were surprised to find pockets of time to feed, water, and play with the birds. Their habits were soon definining our own domestic routine. We woke with birdsong shortly after dawn, ascending the stairs to greet Franny and Zooey. The days were punctuated by feedings, waterings, Kleenex-changings, splashings, and playtimes. Since starlings are social birds, we tried to spend as much time as possible with them. We worried Boland would start to resent Franny and Zooey, but he proved astonishingly magnanimous.

 

 

Catnap

 

 

Despite a decade of habituation to life as an only child, Boland joined us in welcoming his new feathered siblings into our home. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise given his equanimous and laidback personality, but Boland’s practice of chirruping at the birds behind our apartment meant complacency was no guarantee. At first, he displayed a modicum of curiosity as Michael and I disappeared behind closed doors for feedings. He would sometimes linger in the hallway quietly while we visited with the birds. And we did have to suffer a day-or-two–long meowing phase after he caught a glimpse of Franny and Zooey just as the door was closing behind us one time. That spell passed, though. He soon understood these new creatures were part of the family, and he resumed his standard cat duties with lackadaisical aplomb.

 

Boland didn’t even get jealous when Franny and Zooey got their own room. To protect the birds from their curious brother, we relinquished our bedroom that first night, moving the mattress downstairs to the livingroom/office area. Michael bricolaged a nestbox out of a giant cardboard box, and the birds slept in fledgling-sized wicker baskets in two corners of the box. 

 

Each basket was lined with fluffed Kleenex, which we changed as regularly as diapers. Fortunately, fledglings have a habit of pooping outside the nest, so they generally deposited their self-contained sacs of urine (white) and poop (greenish-black) on the newspaper lining their box. On May 28, I noted in my journal:

 

     Nighttime: the birdies have

     outgrown their nests—

     now blankies on the windowsill

 

 

Bird in Blanket

 

 

We secured their window nests to avoid any more Jack and Jill tumbles. Franny and Zooey weren’t yet ready to fly, but they would be soon. For now, they were still toddlers, waiting to be tucked in with a bedtime lullaby. On May 26, I recorded the secret to sending the birds into a fast sleep:

 

     drumming the starlings to sleep

 

We were just beginning to learn the importance of music in their lives. They had already begun to sing with an amazingly rich repetoire that seemed to expand daily. There was one piece in particular they liked to sing the most. Michael once said they were telling the story of how they came to be here. The long, descending whistle that sounds like a falling bomb is the part where they fell from their nests in the ceiling. He didn’t say this, but I think the gentle, hush-hush whispering is for when Michael would drum them to sleep with a paradiddle lullaby. And then there’s the chorus of screeching hallelujahs, ascending in volume with each repetition. When I asked Michael what that one meant, he said that was the part in the story when we opened our door to Franny and Zooey for the first time, and they realized, at last, they were home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This is Chapter 2 in an ongoing series. If you missed the first chapter and would like to read more about our family of orphans, you can do so here. Future chapters will be added to the list in the left-hand column as they become available. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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I very much enjoy this both as a writer and an avian novice. You weave the parenting well in the narrative. rAted!
This is just a wonderful story. It's unbelievable that they lived. As a kid I was always bringing home birds, fox, raccoon, squirrels and everything else. We were always saving broken animals. This is just such a beautiful story. Thank You
Melissa I must say you have one amazing fledgling family, but I must say Boland takes the cake for equanimity. And by the way he's named after my province "Die Boland" or "The High Land" in Dutch.
This is just gorgeous - lush with all the right details. I'm falling in love with them, just as you did. Thank your for this!
Blessed good luck to you. Love those cootie '`lil birds.
Birdsongs save my Mind. Love sooth Ya troubled soul.
I've been wishing you M & M folks some vim and vigor.
`
Hard times. Birds & Bees must strengthen their wings.
Human Beings must too. People pounce Ya to devour.
Birds build a nest better than architecture people can.
`
Byron became a cosmopolitan. It's hard to stand upright before the daily drama of this human theatre. What 'Motley Human Being's' I say. I am a human too. I wish I could sing like the birds do? Lately, a warbler (Yellow Wing) cries on and off for hours in my neck of the mountain woods. It's a rare shrill. It will chirp/chatter solely alone.
Hours of nonstop .... so-sad-song. It sure isn't a sound that evokes joy, or happy sense. Such is a life. It is sardonic, sorrowful, and it is what I'd call:`melancholy. Suffer. It is lacking Laughter. It is a mock note? I'd assume that birds suffer. It is suffering like we humans sometimes do? Listening to the melancholy would make anyone acutely conscious of some finer existence is longed for. Freedom.
Deliverance from pain? People in chronic pain ... the inward psychic anguish, I enjoy you guy/gal musings. This is getting longer than I'd thought.
No preplan.
spontaneity.

or,
or,
or.

Dark spiritual alienation, alienation, out of touch REF:` the TV, politico, a Rush Limbaugh, Barack Obama etc., point made! May unconsciously lash-out to inflict pain upon other fellow human beings).

What a B.O. era.
Much delusions.
War plutocrats.
Bloody and vile.

Or,
war kill?
WHY!?
*
Byron:`
In every clime and country
There lives a Man of Pain
Whose nerves, like chords
of lightening, bring fire into the brain : To him a whisper is a wound, A look, a sneer, a blow ;
More pangs he feels in years or months (...) Than dunce-thronged ages know. ~ Byron etc.,
*
I/you/Byron/anyone:` Humanity didn't set out one day and say:`I'll be a poet. Life is a living poem. Be you. You will suffer if You aspire to fly/soar. Aspire. Song is a heart wound. Without which You can't be True, and can't sing/perceive,

solo
or,
sing
sweet'liest.
or,
Life
bewilders
so-
*
You build better than you know:
The conscious stone to beauty grew.
*

or, There will not be a excellence, as in:`
piano-playing. I'll need to do some reads:`
The old prostrations:`Our Lady of Beauty.
It's getting into self-consciousness of art:`
Art beauty within Themselves. I go on O!
on and on. I'll need to view more Nature!
Well. You guys. No call Annabella a "guy"
She calls me PaPa guy. I tease her:`O guy!
She is five and scold:`I an not a Guy PaPa!
Well. I rambled on and on. O long shadow!
Longfellow wrote:`If we could hear/listen,
to the stored inner grief within our fellows,
People would cry on each others shoulders.
I think of the words:`Bare one another up.
Care without ceasing. Truth is immortality.
Spiritual maturity. It's to groan and travail.
What I enjoy @ OS? We discern our Times.
It's supper grub time! Transcendent Times!
@Mr. Mustard:

“I very much enjoy this both as a writer and an avian novice. You weave the parenting well in the narrative.”

Thank you, Mr. Mustard! I respect and appreciate all three roles, so that means a lot.

I, too, consider myself an avian novice. I’ve certainly learned a great deal in particular about starlings, but I still feel quite ignorant about birds in general. On one hand, it’s surprising what similarities there are across species, so something I learn about starlings could very well apply to most other bird species. On the other hand, there are also some striking and significant differences. For example, I recently learned that if you are attempting to rescue a blue jay fledgling, you have to give them a special diet that involves super-spicy elements, like cayenne and jalapeño peppers. Avian experts believe this may be due to the specialized, regurgitation-only diet blue jays feed their babies, so the spiciness is an attempt to replicate the highly acidic components in their natural diet. Interestingly, birds in general don’t taste spices, so that’s why people sometime put hot spices in their outdoor bird feeders—keeps the squirrels away, but not the birds.
@micalpeace:

“This is just a wonderful story. It's unbelievable that they lived.”

Thanks, micalpeace. And yes, it felt unbelievable at the time, but the more I witness of the inner resilience of even the most fragile of life forms, the more I learn to err on the side of hope rather than despair.

“As a kid I was always bringing home birds, fox, raccoon, squirrels and everything else. We were always saving broken animals.”

“We were always saving broken animals” sounds like a great title for a future piece :-) Perhaps we can look forward to reading more about your childhood encounters with wildlife?

“This is just such a beautiful story. Thank You”

And thank you, Mike, for taking the time to share these kind words.

—Melissa
@Newton:

“Melissa I must say you have one amazing fledgling family, but I must say Boland takes the cake for equanimity.”

Thanks, Newton, I’d have to agree with both :-)

“And by the way he's named after my province "Die Boland" or "The High Land" in Dutch.”

We named him after my favorite poet, Eavan Boland, so I hadn’t realized there was a Dutch connection, as well as an Irish one! I always enjoying learning something new, so I appreciate your telling me.

—Melissa
Love the series and am really enjoying it. It took love, patience and perseverance for the two of you to get through those early weeks. Wonderfully written.

Monte
@Owl_Says_Who:

“This is just gorgeous - lush with all the right details. I'm falling in love with them, just as you did. Thank your for this!”

Aww, thank you, Owl. You know how much I admire you as a parent and as a writer, so I especially appreciate those words coming from you.

—Melissa
@Arthur:

Wow, Arthur! I’m still trying to catch my breath here, but I wanted to thank you for the poetic contemplation. And yes, I agree about the healing nature of birdsong and love, as well as the following bittersweet stanza:

“Hard times. Birds & Bees must strengthen their wings.
Human Beings must too. People pounce Ya to devour.
Birds build a nest better than architecture people can.”


And I love this image of the yellow-winged warbler singing out his soliloquy in the woods:

“Lately, a warbler (Yellow Wing) cries on and off for hours in my neck of the mountain woods. It's a rare shrill. It will chirp/chatter solely alone.”

I also enjoyed your meditation on the melancholy nature of his song. On the question of how animals’ suffering compares with humans’, you might appreciate Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation.

“I enjoy you guy/gal musings.”

Thank you, Arthur. So glad we both agree with Oscar Wilde :-)

“This is getting longer than I'd thought.
No preplan.
spontaneity.”


This is sounding more and more like metaness!

“War plutocrats.
Bloody and vile.

Or,
war kill?
WHY!?”


Amen and amen.

“She is five and scold:`I an not a Guy PaPa!”

:-)

“What I enjoy @ OS? We discern our Times.”

Yes, and interesting times they be, sadly.

Thanks for your wishes of blessed luck, vim, and vigor,

Melissa
@Monte:

“Love the series and am really enjoying it. It took love, patience and perseverance for the two of you to get through those early weeks. Wonderfully written.”

Thank you, Monte. It seems we both have a soft spot in our heart for orphans. I really enjoyed your lovely piece about the love, patience, and perseverance you practice on behalf of ferrel kittens. So glad they have you in their neighborhood.

—Melissa
Lovely story! Touching the wild in this way is such a profound experience. Thank you for expressing it to well!
Scrappy is finally feeding herself, although I suspect that she would not be averse to a feeding or two.
I am curious as to how different Scrappy might be in relation to Franny and Zooey who have each other as companions.
GREAT pictures!!
Boalnd is quite the kitty!

The story speaks volumes as to Love, and as such, it is a favorite of mine now. Your closing words open double doors into the terrace of eternity, though:

"Michael once said they were telling the story of how they came to be here. The long, descending whistle that sounds like a falling bomb is the part where they fell from their nests in the ceiling. "

Like our measured fall from the other place, perhaps genetic memories?

"He didn't say this, but I think the gentle, hush-hush whispering is for when Michael would drum them to sleep with a paradiddle lullaby."

Why we sing - all creations sings - because we are loved?

"And then there's the chorus of screeching hallelujahs, ascending in volume with each repetition. When I asked Michael what that one meant, he said that was the part in the story when we opened our door to Franny and Zooey for the first time, and they realized, at last, they were home."

I have been homesick and seen or spoken of that feeling with friends and acquaintances as far as I can remember - each feeling it as well. Would that home would open its doors as you both have opened them and loved, for all of us :)

Thank you for this post.

peece!
dj
@Stephanie:

“Lovely story! Touching the wild in this way is such a profound experience. Thank you for expressing it to well!”

Happy to see you here, Stephanie! So fun to read about your currently unfolding adventure with Scrappy while I’m describing our same journey from three years ago.

“Scrappy is finally feeding herself, although I suspect that she would not be averse to a feeding or two.”

That’s always such a relief when they can begin to take care of themselves. Relieves a tad of the pressure on you.

“I am curious as to how different Scrappy might be in relation to Franny and Zooey who have each other as companions.”

I am, too, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting your next installment.

“GREAT pictures!!”

Thanks, Stephanie! I enjoyed yours, too. Still impressed by that action splashing shot.

—Melissa
@David:

“Boalnd is quite the kitty!”

Most definitely.

“The story speaks volumes as to Love, and as such, it is a favorite of mine now.”

That is an honor I treasure.

“Your closing words open double doors into the terrace of eternity, though:”

What a lovely way of describing it!

“Like our measured fall from the other place, perhaps genetic memories?”

Fascinating to contemplate! Edenesque, perhaps.

“Why we sing - all creations sings - because we are loved?”

Or, as in the case of the blues, because we are not loved . . .

“I have been homesick and seen or spoken of that feeling with friends and acquaintances as far as I can remember - each feeling it as well. Would that home would open its doors as you both have opened them and loved, for all of us :)”

Would that we could, indeed! I have been blessed not to suffer the pangs of homesickness for years, so it pains me to think that you continue to endure them. Know that the doors of both of our virtual homes are always open to you, dear friend.

“Thank you for this post.”

And thank you for your wise and thought-provoking words, David. You are always an inspiration.

—Melissa
They are adorable. I've always wanted a raven.
oh my god, this is such a lovely and loving post!! i adore this. thank you so much, melissa. the photos and the artwork around them, it's all so stunning and so professional. wow. i love michael's interpretations of their songs and the drumming and i know that he is right about the meaning of their songs. and the gorgeous Boland accepting them. god, i hate being catless. i'm so happy that you posted chapter 2. it makes me so happy on a very dark day. love lveo lveo and gratitude
What a wonderful family you all make. I loved this post, it was like reading about any other new parents: bringing home babies for the first time, second guessing their decisions, working out systems, hoping for the best and then overjoyed when everything falls in place. My favorite part is your description of Michael's song for the birds. Does he still sings it? Have you recorded it?
I've read both chapters now, and I am finding them utterly charming. Boland is a beautiful kitty who knew his proper family when he saw them. And I'm in awe of the ceaseless, dedicated labor that went into sustaining the lives of these baby birds. The two of you possess rare gifts of loving patience.

The pictures are beautiful. I read chapter two first, and the pics with their printing are so professional, I assumed at first you must be using stock photos. By the time I had worked backward, I learned these are your work - and I hope all of this is coming together for a book.

One more note of admiration: the story of your husband's childhood is compelling and heartbreaking.

And one note of trivia: you have given me a new word - bricolage. Love that word! Sounds just like what it means!

Rated, "favorited," appreciated. Please PM me when you post something new as I can't get here daily and may miss it otherwise.
@Tijo:

“They are adorable.”

Thank you, Tijo. It’s been fun going back and looking at all of these “baby” pictures. They really do look so innocent and adorable compared to their magnificently handsome adult selves. They look especially splendid right now, since they’ve finished moulting and have a brand-new set of stunning iridescent feathers.

“I've always wanted a raven.”

Interesting you should say that, because starling behavior is supposed to be remarkably similar to ravens. Our bird rescue expert friend recommended Bernd Heinrich’s Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, which is absolutely fascinating. I haven’t had a chance to finish it yet, but what I’ve read was both illuminating and entertaining.

—Melissa
@Theodora:

“oh my god, this is such a lovely and loving post!! i adore this. thank you so much, melissa. the photos and the artwork around them, it's all so stunning and so professional. wow.”

How lovely and loving of you to say so, Theodora :-)

“i love michael's interpretations of their songs and the drumming and i know that he is right about the meaning of their songs.”

Yes, I think so, too.

“and the gorgeous Boland accepting them.”

We were so grateful to him for his generous and loving attitude.

“i'm so happy that you posted chapter 2. it makes me so happy on a very dark day.”

It’s always an honor to make you happy, Theodora. Hope today is brighter for you.

—Melissa
@mamoore:

“What a wonderful family you all make.”

Thank you, Melissa. We do indeed feel blessed to have one another.

“I loved this post, it was like reading about any other new parents: bringing home babies for the first time, second guessing their decisions, working out systems, hoping for the best and then overjoyed when everything falls in place.”

That’s wonderful to hear from someone whose parenting skills we have developed profound respect for.

“My favorite part is your description of Michael's song for the birds. Does he still sings it? Have you recorded it?”

I realize that may have been a little ambiguous. The song being described (with the long, falling whistle) is actually sung by the birds. And I suggested the whispering “hush-hush” sound they make as part of that song could be referring to Michael drumming them to sleep at night, since there’s something so rhythmic and soothing about both acts.

As for the singing, I discuss this in a later chapter, but Michael did make up a lullaby we used to sing to them (sometimes still do :-) The lyrics are very simple, but it’s sung in a gentle, lullaby form that really does seem to help put them to sleep (although nothing is more effective than the drumming, which works almost instantaneously):

Franny and Zooey
Franny and Zooey
Franny!
Zooey!


:-)

—Melissa
@Annette:

“I've read both chapters now, and I am finding them utterly charming.”

I’m so glad to hear that! I was hoping these would work as independent essays, as well as parts of an ongoing series. I’m trying not to make them too dependent on one another so new readers can dive in anywhere, but if they want to learn more, they can always go back and read the earlier chapters.

“Boland is a beautiful kitty who knew his proper family when he saw them.”

Yes, thank God for his wisdom and perseverance.

“And I'm in awe of the ceaseless, dedicated labor that went into sustaining the lives of these baby birds. The two of you possess rare gifts of loving patience.”

What a beautiful comment. We’ve definitely learned a great deal about patience (and love!) through the act of raising them.

“The pictures are beautiful.”

Thanks! It’s nice finally going back and looking at them for the first time and turning them into something new.

“I read chapter two first, and the pics with their printing are so professional, I assumed at first you must be using stock photos.”

How kind of you to say so! And here I was lamenting the poor quality. We have an old digital camera, so the resolution and features aren’t anywhere near the quality I would like, but that’s what Photoshop’s for, I suppose ;-) And I love typography, so once I started that pattern in the first post, I couldn’t resist continuing it.

“By the time I had worked backward, I learned these are your work - and I hope all of this is coming together for a book.”

Yes, that is the ultimate goal. I’ve been working on this project more seriously for the past year and a half. The first year and a half, I took pretty casual notes in my journal, so that’s what I’m in the process of translating into chapters right now. I can’t wait until I get to spring of last year, when I started typing each entry as a coherent essay, so I’ve already got about twenty-five of those waiting for me whenever I get through the handwritten journals. That’ll feel like coasting after this initial process.

“One more note of admiration: the story of your husband's childhood is compelling and heartbreaking.”

If you’d like to read more about that, Annette, you might be interested in our conversation about that topic over at our other blog. It’s actually more straightforward than most of our meta-versations, so that’s probably why it got an Editor’s Pick. Definitely one of the smoothest entry points into metaness :-)

“And one note of trivia: you have given me a new word - bricolage. Love that word! Sounds just like what it means!”

Oh good! We love that word, too, especially since “bricoleur” is the best term I’ve found to describe Michael’s Renaissance range. It encompasses art, music, film, programming—pretty much anything he undertakes, since it’s more about the mindset you bring to the project than the medium itself.

“Rated, "favorited," appreciated. Please PM me when you post something new as I can't get here daily and may miss it otherwise.”

Thank you, Annette! I will indeed PM you (and anyone else who wishes me to, so just holler).

It’s a delight to welcome you, and I look forward to your next batch of parapraxes :-)

—Melissa
@Rolling:

“you are nice.”

Aww. Thanks, Rolling :-)

—Melissa
You four are incredibly lucky to have found each other and to make each other so happy. Now I'm looking forward to Boland Meets the Birds.
I agree that the photos are gorgeous, and I love the artistic lettering. You're got a real knack! Does graphic design figure into many of your creative projects?

Everyone else has highlighted aspects of the post that strike me, too, and explicated them so eloquently... All I can add is reiteration of my respect for your storytelling talents! And I'm looking forward as much anyone to future installments of your orphan-family saga.
@Hawley:

“You four are incredibly lucky to have found each other and to make each other so happy.”

Thank you, Hawley—I agree :-)

“Now I'm looking forward to Boland Meets the Birds.”

The peripheral meeting shared in this piece will have to hold you over for a while. I’ll have to wait and see when this comes up in my journals, but I think it was several months later that Boland had an unforgettable encounter with the birds. He came away with an even greater respect for them and a gentlemanly deference to their powers :-)

—Melissa
@keenoctopus:

“I agree that the photos are gorgeous, and I love the artistic lettering. You're got a real knack! Does graphic design figure into many of your creative projects?”

Thanks, keenoctopus! Yes, graphic design does figure in most of our creative projects, and it’s something I love doing whenever I can find an excuse to do so: CD and DVD artwork, website graphics, cafepress goodies, whatever happens to come up (which reminds me, the couple that owns the coffeeshop I frequent asked if they could put up a few of my digital collages, so that’s another thing I need to finish so I can check it off my list . . . ).

“Everyone else has highlighted aspects of the post that strike me, too, and explicated them so eloquently... All I can add is reiteration of my respect for your storytelling talents!”

I appreciate that, keenoctopus, especially from a writer with your gifts for observation and narrative.

“And I'm looking forward as much anyone to future installments of your orphan-family saga.”

Okay, that gives me even more incentive to resist the gravitational pull of OS and get back to writing!

I’m so honored that you came out of relative hiding to share this sweet comment :-)

—Melissa
@Elena:

“This is truly beautiful”

A touching comment from a beautiful soul—thank you, Elena.

“and I am so glad I found it today.”

Me, too!

“You are an incredibly good writer and I can't wait for the next installment. Please PM me as well!”

Thanks, Elena, I will try to make that a habit with this one since the chapters may not come out as regularly as I would hope (then again, maybe I’ll get some momentum going this weekend if I can stay away from OS long enough ;-)

—Melissa
I used to have a few finches. The female laid many eggs and hatched her babies with the male bird. I helped feed them with an eye dropper. They grew up to be beautiful finches. I got to watch them the first time they jumped out of their nest. It was the cutest things I'd ever seen. They knew me like their own momma.
@cinamingrl:

“I used to have a few finches. The female laid many eggs and hatched her babies with the male bird. I helped feed them with an eye dropper. They grew up to be beautiful finches. I got to watch them the first time they jumped out of their nest. It was the cutest things I'd ever seen. They knew me like their own momma.”

What a delightful story! Perhaps we can read a more detailed report in a future post? :-)

Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to comment, cinamingrl.

—Melissa
Thanks for bringing me along in this lovely narrative. The photos are stunning. It's so nice to enjoy these!
@aim:

“Thanks for bringing me along in this lovely narrative. The photos are stunning.”

And thanks for the sweet and thoughtful comment, aim!

“It's so nice to enjoy these!”

It’s so nice to have them enjoyed :-)

—Melissa
A wonderful read. Rated.
@scupper:

“A wonderful read. Rated.”

Why, thank you, scupper! So sweet of you to fly through and drop a kind note (and a rating, to boot :-)

—Melissa
Thank you for notifying me, Melissa, I would have missed it otherwise.

"... I worried they would develop a preference for Michael. Thankfully, Franny and Zooey were nondiscriminating, and they were just as delighted to balance on my arm while I stuck little globs of formula down their throats as they were on Michael’s..."

You were probably lucky to have missed the imprinting window altogether. As Konrad Lorenz points out (for other birds): incubator-hatched geese would imprint on the first suitable moving stimulus they saw within what he called a "critical period" between 13–16 hours shortly after hatching.

You may enjoy this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqZmW7uIPW4&feature=related
I could see the first photo today as it failed to upload the other day. it looks like me :) the stance and expression on the face on the window sill and blanket picture too.

astounding how all babies look the same whether human or animal or even fish babies.

bird in the blanket is like poetry in picture. made me want to hug you guys somehow. love you all.
Oh this is so beautiful. You should have this in book form. Are these your photos? Just excellent! rated and shared.
Oh and one of my favorite things to watch is the exuberance of Starlings splashing!
@GalaxyMan:

“Thank you for notifying me, Melissa, I would have missed it otherwise.”

You’re welcome, GalaxyMan, and thank you for encouraging us to do that (although I still haven’t convinced Michael to start blogwhoring new metaness posts ;-)

“You were probably lucky to have missed the imprinting window altogether.”

Actually, we didn’t! Starlings imprint between seven and fourteen days of age, so we found them precisely during that window of time. That was one of the reasons we realized early on we would not be able to release them into the wild—they had adopted us as their parents and would be more vulnerable without that innate fear of humans.

“As Konrad Lorenz points out (for other birds): incubator-hatched geese would imprint on the first suitable moving stimulus they saw within what he called a "critical period" between 13–16 hours shortly after hatching. You may enjoy this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqZmW7uIPW4&feature=related”

This was absolutely fascinating—thank you so much for sharing that clip! It actually led me to another painfully adorable video of a duckling who has been imprinted by a puppy.

—Melissa
@Rolling:

“I could see the first photo today as it failed to upload the other day. it looks like me :) the stance and expression on the face on the window sill and blanket picture too.”

Yes!!! You are indeed the defiant fledgling—and aren’t you surprised by your resilience? You are definitely a survivor, Nabina.

“astounding how all babies look the same whether human or animal or even fish babies.”

What a sweet observation. Maybe it’s that newness of wonder, the curiosity and the innocent absence of the dog-eat-dog cynicism that threatens to overtake them as adults.

“bird in the blanket is like poetry in picture. made me want to hug you guys somehow. love you all.”

Aww, Nabina. You have hugged us with your words, and we love you, too.

((((( Nabina )))))

—Melissa
@JRDOG:

“Oh this is so beautiful.”

Thank you, Robin!

“You should have this in book form.”

That’s what I’ve been working towards, so I appreciate the encouragement.

“Are these your photos?”

Yes. I finally found a purpose for the thousands of photos I’ve taken of them! For the first six months or so, I had a daily routine of taking photos every day. But then the winter came, and the light was poor in the mornings (my only window for photographs before going to work), so I got out of the habit. And the photos were all starting to look the same, although when I looked at them later, I realized they are a record of their incremental development. Now I regret slacking off!

“Just excellent! rated and shared.”

I’m touched by your enthusiasm, Robin. Thank you for thinking to share this with others.

“Oh and one of my favorite things to watch is the exuberance of Starlings splashing!”

Me, too!

I’m so glad we found each other’s work, and I’m looking forward to reading more about your (and your dog’s) adventures!

—Melissa
This was beautifully written. I like the way you tell their tales and are so proud of them.
Much as I look forward to development of Franny & Zooey, I'm with Boland...I think he is biding his time!
@Tabb:

“This was beautifully written. I like the way you tell their tales and are so proud of them.”

Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, Tabb! I really enjoyed your first post and am looking forward to reading more of your funny and adventurous writing.

I’m also delighted to join in welcoming you to OS!

—Melissa


@Hazel:

“Much as I look forward to development of Franny & Zooey, I'm with Boland...I think he is biding his time!”

Haha—wise woman! Thanks for stopping by, Hazel, and best wishes with recovering from your recent surprise visit.

—Melissa
good stuff: love the pics
@scoubidou:

“good stuff: love the pics”

Thanks, scoubidou, and I’m delighted to welcome you!

—Melissa
@Mary:

“This goes to show that although humans spend most of their time making war on other animals, we can be useful at times. Nature put US here for something. Maybe it is to take care and love lesser creatures.”

This sounds like our philosophy of life in a nutshell :-)

Thrilled to see you here, Mary, and thanks for your moving comment.

—Melissa
Lovely story and great pictures! Your care and tenderness is wonderful.
I'm with JRdog -- These beautiful chapters are surely one of many to be sent for editor review and publication. What a wonderful book you'll have.
@Faith:

“Lovely story and great pictures! Your care and tenderness is wonderful.”

So glad to see you here, Faith. Thank you for your tender and caring words.

—Melissa

@Blue Roses:

“I'm with JRdog -- These beautiful chapters are surely one of many to be sent for editor review and publication. What a wonderful book you'll have.”

Thank you, Blue Roses, for your kind encouragement, both here and at my grandma’s new blog. You’ve inspired me to get to work on the next chapter before I get too sleepy.

—Melissa
This is such a beautiful true life story! There was an article in yesterday's paper about our local wildlife rescue people & the woman who saves songbirds.

Occasionally, in spite of the decals on our window, a hummingbird will hit it & become disoriented. You have to get outside quickly in case the cats are around. Each time, we pick the disoriented hummingbird up & hold it in our hands until it's ready to fly and every single time they fly up, turn around & look at us for a minute before flying off. It's like they're saying Thank you.

I'm looking forward to hearing more of your story. This really would make a lovely book!
Having acquired a puppy a couple of months ago, I am very much in tune with the exhaustion. I look forward to following the lives of Franny and Zooey.
@suzie:

“This is such a beautiful true life story!”

I’m delighted to welcome you, Suzie, and thank you for the encouraging feedback!

“There was an article in yesterday's paper about our local wildlife rescue people & the woman who saves songbirds.”

How interesting! I’d love to read it if it’s available online. I will be writing about her a bit later, but we were incredibly blessed to befriend a wildlife rescue expert named Erin shortly after finding Franny and Zooey. At the time, she was caring for about fifteen disabled starlings and two ravens (one with a missing wing and the other with a missing foot). She’s the person everyone in her community brings injured animals and birds of all sorts to—and she was only nineteen at the time! Erin has an encyclopedic knowledge of animals in general and especially birds, so we’ve learned so much from her over the past three years. And she’s extraordinarily gracious about being “on call” for emergencies. She has truly been a godsend.

“Occasionally, in spite of the decals on our window, a hummingbird will hit it & become disoriented. You have to get outside quickly in case the cats are around. Each time, we pick the disoriented hummingbird up & hold it in our hands until it's ready to fly and every single time they fly up, turn around & look at us for a minute before flying off. It's like they're saying Thank you.”

What a beautiful story, and I have to say Michael and I were both amazed when we read this, as it’s so similar to a story my mom tells in our documentary, Finding Their Way Home. (You can scroll down to the bottom of this post to see a preview.) She talks about finding a bee in the kitchen one time, and it was stuck in the honey jar! She picked it up, washed it off, and set it down in the garden outside. She said it walked around and shook itself off a little. Then it flew right up to her face and paused. She says, “It was like he was saying, ‘Thank you!’” Strikingly similar to what you said!

“I'm looking forward to hearing more of your story. This really would make a lovely book!”

Thanks again, Suzie, and I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

—Melissa
@Teresa M:

“Having acquired a puppy a couple of months ago, I am very much in tune with the exhaustion.”

Isn’t it an extraordinary rollercoaster of exhaustion and elation? Ah, the wonders of parenting :-)

“I look forward to following the lives of Franny and Zooey.”

I’m delighted to hear it, Teresa. Welcome, and thanks for your sweet comment!

—Melissa
That's just beautiful for what you have done for those innocent little guys. Me thinks saint francis knew exactly where to put them so someone so kind would take care of them.
Thanks! Create
@Create:

“That's just beautiful for what you have done for those innocent little guys. Me thinks saint francis knew exactly where to put them so someone so kind would take care of them. Thanks!”

Aww, thank you, Create! Lovely to see you over here. Looking forward to finding out where Saint Francis ends up putting you :-)

—Melissa
There is an utter magic about wild things . . . so close to the Life Power, one trembles at the proximity.
@Brinna:

You are so kind to visit and comment both here and at Love Grandma!

“There is an utter magic about wild things . . . so close to the Life Power, one trembles at the proximity.”

What a gorgeous way of describing it, and I utterly agree. I sometimes find myself struck by an exquisite sense of joy and awe that we have wild birds flying about the apartment. It’s a strange and beautiful gift to be privy to such wildness. I often consider what I would think of seeing my adult self in this situation from the perspective of my childhood. I was in love with all creatures and just adored reading stories about people who adopted wild ones, whether racoon or eagle or lioness. Starlings are less exotic but no less wondrous.

—Melissa
I am enjoying this so much! I love the writing, the story, the tenderness and affection, the care... how lucky Zooey and Franny have been!
OK then, how did it all go between the starlings and Boland the Great?
Kisses,
Marcela
@Marcela:

Oh, dear Marcela! So lovely to see you here.

“I am enjoying this so much! I love the writing, the story, the tenderness and affection, the care... how lucky Zooey and Franny have been!”

I’m so glad you’re enjoying this. And it is Michael and I who feel lucky to have found Franny and Zooey! They truly are a blessing in our lives.

“OK then, how did it all go between the starlings and Boland the Great?”

Like I said, it was all surprisingly uneventful—with just a few exceptions that I’ll get to in later chapters :-)

—Melissa
You amaze me with this tale of determination and devotion, so descriptive. "They had most of their feathers in, but there was still quite a bit of pink flesh underneath, and you could see little pin feathers starting to poke through their delicate skin." They sound so fragile. I also liked your description of their poop and urine, seriously. I had no idea. Your posts almost always have a delicate eye for detail about them. It gives one a feeling of being included and of being there. Thanks so much.
@latethink:

“You amaze me with this tale of determination and devotion, so descriptive.”

You are so kind! I’m delighted to know you’re enjoying the narrative.

“‘They had most of their feathers in, but there was still quite a bit of pink flesh underneath, and you could see little pin feathers starting to poke through their delicate skin.’ They sound so fragile.”

I am continually astonished both by their fragility, especially at this age, and their simultaneous resilience. So far, the latter quality has won out, thankfully.

“I also liked your description of their poop and urine, seriously. I had no idea.”

Haha! That’s wonderful to know you appreciate details like that. I know I was fascinated when I first read about this topic, for instance, but I didn’t know if that’s because I’m a starling mama or because the topic is inherently interesting.

“Your posts almost always have a delicate eye for detail about them. It gives one a feeling of being included and of being there. Thanks so much.”

It’s heartwarming to think of you and so many of our other loving friends as truly being here. Thank you for following along and participating in the journey!

—Melissa