"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Story about Birds, and Litter, and Tears

I held a wee yellow bird in my hand this afternoon. The saucy black cap on the top of its head immediately identified it as a Wilson's warbler, one of my favorite birds.

Not an hour before, at a different location, I waited for another Wilson's to perch in the open and hold still long enough for me to focus my lens on it. That was not to be. In and out of the willows like a streak of yellow lightning, it teased me on and on. 

Every time I tried to leave, it zipped across the trail in front of me, only to disappear. Then, when I tried to move, back it came, dancing through the willows and alders and spruce. 

Little yellow guy won. I left to go pick up litter some miles down the road.

Not long after I began walking along the highway with my grab stick and yellow litter bag, I found the little bird. Its life spirit was gone, no doubt the result of a collision with a moving vehicle.

My heart cried as I picked it up and held it. So tiny, so tiny I had to take my glove off to pick it up. How can they fly so fast?

I was not in a good spot to leave it for its final rest, so I slipped it in the breast pocket of my safety vest. I looked down at it once in a while, as it rode high in the pocket, buoyed by some tissue.

Finally I came to a small creek and walked to the edge of the spruce forest. There, between two spruce stumps, was a perfect resting spot with a conk growing from one stump that will shelter little yellow from the rains.

I told him how sorry I was and went on my way. I tried not to think of the inevitable, but that's like telling your eyes not to see or your ears not to hear. Is there a lady warbler on a nest, wondering why he hasn't returned?

And a while later, I held a hermit thrush in my hand, its striking feathers the color of hot milk chocolate. I carried it in the same pocket until I came to a spruce tree and laid it to rest.

Too much. Too much for one day.


  1. Oh Jeanne, Birds and Litter and Tears. I had assumed you had by now taken up your litter patrols. Coming back upon the Wilson's warbler and the hermit thrush, both on their way out of this life, brought a catch to my heart and a few tears for such beautiful creatures. We were in a museum here in Siberia a few days ago where they had an entire room filled with birds of various sizes and species. We thought of you and your love of the birds. Hugs to you and yet another thank you for your litter picking making Alaska more lovely again. Patti and Cap

  2. Tender of you to care so much for the two birds. There are a lot of stories out there in the wild. Cap and Patti