Archive for Urban Wildlife


Robin Redbreast in Distress

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Yesterday my neighbor across the street called me up in the middle of the afternoon.

“You want to see something really bizarre? ” he said. “Well, maybe not bizarre…there’s a Robin caught in the apricot tree, would you come over and help me get her loose? She’s tangled up in some string.”

Of course I went right over after making sure I had a clean, soft cotton handkerchief in my pocket.

At first, I couldn’t see Ms Robin. (Yes, both of us called the Robin ‘she’, so…) Underneath the almost ripe apricots hanging here and there from the bowed branch, a large Robin was hanging with one leg hooked around a small dead twig. At first we thought she was pinned to the tree by the twig, her leg pierced at the joint.She was very quiet at the moment, panting heavily, her chest heaving and her eyes looking as if they were slightly bulging.

Then, detecting a new presence, she started to beat her wings as hard as possible, working herself off of the twig until she hung at another odd angle from the branch. Now I could see the very tiny string, more like a thread really, wound around both of her feet at the ankle, and wound around the small branch of the tree. It must have been a plastic fiber because even though it was very slender, she couldn’t free herself. Although no bigger than a decent sized cobweb strand, it just wouldn’t break no matter how hard she struggled.

Maybe we could lop off the branch and then untangle her? As my neighbor went to find pruners or something, I just kept watching Ms Robin, holding the handkerchief in my hand. I wanted to wrap her up in the cloth so that she would stop struggling. If I could hold her around the wings, then we could see what needed to be done without hurting her.

I started doing a little hummy noise under my breath and focused on carefully moving closer while she was trying to untangle herself. She was almost out of her mind already, so I just wanted to sooth her and calm her down. Suddenly she stopped moving and was hanging directly upside down under the branch.

I reached forward quickly with the handkerchief between my hands and surrounded her terrified little body. Her heart was beating like a trip-hammer, but she was quiet. I asked my friend for scissors as I tried to loosen the thread around her tough little ankles with my pinkies while waiting. I kept murmuring to her, hoping it would be a comfort, and praying it wasn’t making it worst.

My friend carefully snipped the tiny bits of super strong thread that held Ms Robin to the branch. Then he clipped what threads he could without cutting the leathery skin on her ankles and finally her feet were free! I walked out from under the overhanging branches of the apricot tree and gently tossed Robin up in the air.  She made it to the top of the wooden fence next door in a couple of wing beats.

We watched her sit still, with her beak open, panting from the exertion and fright of being bound to a tree. A dish of water was set out close by, but not so close as to scare her further. After awhile, I went home. She wasn’t moving from that fence until she gathered her strength back and I didn’t want her to worry about my presence.

Blessings Robin! May you live long and prosper!


Update On A Backyard Fox

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Sometime ago I wrote about the foxes I have been seeing and my delight at the direct example of wildlife adaptation to an urban setting. Back then foxes were jumping up on the fence under my kitchen window and easily leaping onto the roof next door.  As I may also have mentioned the squirrels in this part of North Denver had been having a field day with anything I grew: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and plums. What really pissed me off was the waste. I don’t mind sharing my bounty with the four legged, the winged ones, and other two legged as well. I just get mad when one bite is taken, the veggie or fruit is thrown down, and then another is taken with the same outcome. Waste not; want not. So in a fit of desperation, I called on a fox to come stay in my yard and help me keep these marauding squirrels under control!

When I looked out the window a few days later and saw a fox sleeping in the backyard, I was both surprised and elated. “Oh my Gosh! It worked!” I said under my breath to keep from disturbing his slumber. As the days went by, this fox grew accustomed to me and I to he. Even when sleeping right across from the back door, he would just raise his head when I came in or out, see that it was me, then go back to sleep. The other favorite sleeping spots were on the top of the straw bales I have for mulching, and on top of the sheet compost project in the NW corner of the yard. However, I was still seeing the squirrels running all around and wondered if Foxy was just using the yard as a rest stop.

Soon after having this thought I was at home, spending the day working around the house getting ready for winter. There was Foxy sleeping in the sun as usual. I continued on my own schedule and a short time later glanced out the back windows once more. This time Foxy was sitting in the middle of the back yard munching on a squirrel! I got the point! Unlike cats, foxes do not leave any remains behind, by the way!

As the winter moves along, so is the relationship between the fox and I and the fox and my grandchildren. One morning I was bringing my four year old grandson in through the back gate and the fox simply looked at him, sniffed, and went back to sleep. Foxy was directly opposite the back door and only five feet away at the most. Then a week later my two and a half year old granddaughter saw the fox sleeping on the straw bales when she came home with me. Being curious, she walked slowly over toward Foxy, who got up and stretched lazily as she approached. I told her to just stand there and go no closer (again about five feet) or Mr Foxy would run away. She stopped, chattered away at him, then turned to come back to the porch. Immediately Foxy stepped forward and sniffed the air and the ground where she had been standing a few moments ago then turned and jumped back up on the bales.

I think we have been adopted!