But when the girls put it in the box, they called again. "Mom! Look at the tail feathers! They’re almost gone!" Sure enough, its little bottom was bare. Feathers had clearly been removed. Had it been attacked by a larger bird and escaped, only to land in our pond? It was something to ponder. Whatever happened, it seemed clear to me that the little guy would probably not make it; it would not be able to fly again and would be easy prey, or we would not be able to care for it well enough and it would die. But Christina and her friend were going to do all they could to save this bird. They put water in a milk cap and gave it some sunflower seeds. Then they went out to the compost heap looking for worms. No luck. (I’m sure they were there, but two 10-year-olds probably couldn’t dig deep enough). So they pulled out a Butterfly Field Guide, looking for plants that caterpillars live on. "Mom? Do we have any milkweed around here? How about poplar?" I suggested the broccoli, since there were three little green critters in the last head I picked. Christina had thought of that, too, but had found none. Well! I told her to check the beans. "Turn over the leaves and get some of the little yellow bugs." Bean beetle larvae ought to be good for something! Success at last! They gave them to the frightened little bird, who of course ignored it all. Then they pulled out a Bird Field Guide to try to identify it. However, a small brown and beige bird could be almost anything. My guess is a young female chickadee, but we’ll never know.
Having done all they could, they went about their play for a couple hours. When they returned, they asked if they could take it outside. "Yes, but stay with it! You don’t want a hawk to get it." Out they went. Moments later, that most wonderful word in the world was heard again –"Mom!" What now? "Mom, he flew away! He’s all right! He flew away!" How he flew with that tail I’ll never know, but Christina’s little friend said she saw its tail feathers spread, so it must have had enough left after all. An unexpected happy ending! And a terrific opportunity to learn and experience wonder. They will always remember saving that bird.