Last week we were out of town on Thursday, so early this morning Arthur and I walked our Rescue & Recovery route for the ninth time this season. For this migration awareness post I would just like to share a bit about what it’s like to check the streets of downtown Chicago for injured birds now that we’ve had some more experience.
Arthur and I drive downtown, usually leaving home some time around 4am. The dark streets are deserted close to home, but by 5am the expressway into downtown is surprisingly busy. During the morning we park the car in several places and then check the surrounding streets. Arthur and I split up, mostly, to cover as much ground as possible. By the time we arrive at our first parking spot, it’s already twilight. We’re trying to beat the gulls and other predators, and pedestrians.
Walking the dark streets, our eyes play tricks on us. But even in daylight, a crumpled napkin is a streaky sparrow laying on its side. A fallen flower bud is a stunned warbler. We approach every object out of place on the street, courtyard, or sidewalk, to check if it is a bird in trouble.
During one of our first weeks, I picked up a dead American Woodcock. It was laying about ten feet out from the building it struck, and as I approached it, it seemed impossibly huge. Then, my eyes told me an old shoe was laying on the ground.
Not all creatures we come across are birds. Rats scurry along alleyways. Bunnies hop in tiny gardens. Earlier this season, we found three bats, all laying around one building. Those we cannot approach. Several times we have found dragonflies laying on curbs or next to buildings. Are they also window-strike victims? We think so.
We find birds huddled close to buildings, or in the middle of the street. This morning I walked by a dark male American Redstart, laying in the middle of an alley, as I checked the sides of the buildings. I noticed the tiny bird as I retraced my steps back to the car. Once we saw a large bird in the middle of the road. A thrush, we first thought. But the large dark bird was a Brown Thrasher, stunned, uncharacteristically quiet and still in the street.
We need to remain quiet around our patients, but when picking up a salvage bird, I can’t help but apologize to it.
When we finish with our route, we check in with the other Thursday volunteers. All of the rescues and salvages are brought to triage in the city. Patients are later transported out of the city, for further care or immediate release. The salvage birds are brought to the Field Museum. On a good day, we have more rescues than salvages. For us, today was not a good day.