Almost to work, flying down the hill, thinking about not much at all, I noticed a small greyish brownish lump in the road, in the opposite travel lane. I looked closely as I went by, unconsciously feathering my brakes. It was a bird, sitting up. I noted that there was no traffic but me at the moment, so I did a quick u-turn. Laying my bike down, I noticed a car come up behind me, but my focus was on the bird at this point, and the driver had clearly seen me. There was plenty of room for the car to get around me, but they didn’t. That they didn’t was perhaps due to their confusion (what IS that crazy girl doing laying her bike down in the middle of the road?) or perhaps to protect me from other traffic. Maybe they could see what I was doing and sympathized.
Regardless, they did not honk at me or roll down their window to yell at me. They just sat there, waiting.
I gently picked up the bird. Small enough that I could hold him or her in one hand, she was bigger than a starling and much bigger than a sparrow. I have no idea what kind of bird she was.
She didn’t try to move as I picked her up. She didn’t struggle as I held her in one hand, wrestling with my bike with the other.
She simply sat quietly in my hand as I dragged my bike to the side of the road. The few times wild animals have acted this way around me, they have been babies. I don’t know of any other explanation for her comfort and lack of panic or struggle while being handled by a human. From what I know of birds (not much, but a little), if she really was a baby, she was likely a fledgling. In the “out of nest and hopping on the ground but still reliant on the parents” stage, and she’d start calling to her parents at some point after she felt safe again, and they’d come take care of her.
Holding her in my hand, I checked her out. No blood, eyes open and alert. Breathing seemed normal. (What do I really know, anyway?) All legs and toes present. Essentially, she looked like nothing at all was wrong with her. Like maybe she decided to take a nap in the middle of the road, and was only just now starting to wake up. Or maybe she had been dazed by something, and was only partially conscious. In the woodsy area just to the side of the road, I decided to put her down where she had branches to perch on as well as leaves to hide under. She didn’t make any move to step out of my hand, so I set her down on a branch.
As soon as her feet touched the ground, she hopped under some protective branches, instinct perhaps finally taking over. She was mobile and she was safe. My job was done.
Riding my bike has given me a couple opportunities like this. Moving a turtle out of the road. Stopping traffic to herd geese to safety. This morning’s bird rescue.
It was with real satisfaction that I finished the last mile or so to work. I love my bike commutes, I love being on my bike. This is part of the reason, being part of the world, being in a situation where my travel style is flexible enough that I can help when needed.
Telling a coworker about my morning’s adventure, his face twisted up like he’d eaten something sour. “You picked up a bird?”