For the past couple of days, we’ve had swallows visiting, and behaving a bit strangely. They were flying around, divebombing in different directions, continually coming up to our balcony, and occasionally flying directly into the clear glass doors. Ouch! Then one appeared, perched on the light up on the wall on our balcony, and then another…then another. And eventually five birds were snuggled together, perched atop this rounded outdoor light fixture, almost pushing each other off.

We got a few photos but mostly left them to it, although they were not bothered in the least when Mark took photos of them, and even touched them. It was strange! Here are the birds in question:

Cuddle Birds

The next morning, we discovered two of the birds just kind of lying together on the floor of the balcony, and they seemed so strangely tired, we just left them there again, and wondered what was the matter. Mark thought perhaps since swallows are migratory birds, they’d just arrived in Gordon’s Bay (perhaps expecting it to be slightly warmer — it has been unusually and unseasonably cold) and they were very tired because the wind has been hectic. So it was fine for our balcony to serve as a birdie rest haven for a wee while.

Then, while I was doing some early prep work for a big tasty dinner last night (an early African Thanksgiving, I made sweet potato fluff!) I just saw something drop and heard this thud on the balcony — one of the birds was lying there just behind the grill. “Mark!!!” I announced, “One of the birds has fallen off!! I think you need to help it!”

I must here interject an important point. You might meet Mark one day, dear reader. Depending on what part of the world you’re from, especially if it’s outside the southern hemisphere, you might mistake him for an Australian. This is an egregious error. To the untrained ear, Australian and South African accents seem similar, but they are indeed different. Different accents, different countries, different continents, different rugby teams, and different ways of cooking meat over an open flame. We once met with a dear sweet pastor back in North Carolina who after a few minutes of conversation exclaimed, “Dude, you’re like the Croc Hunter incarnate!” My husband is many delightful and heroic things, but friends he is no Steve Irwin, Jr. And I am not Terry. And we don’t have any pictures of the Bear near crocodiles either. Mark is rather good with animals in most situations, but let the record show, he is not the Croc Hunter.  Now on with the story. After a picture of the Non-Croc Hunter with the bird in question:

Not the Croc Hunter

So, Mark went outside and picked up the poor bird, who did indeed seem very tired. He tried to help him onto a porch chair, but the bird seemed keen rather to stay in his hand. He held him and warmed him for a little while. We brought out a little burp cloth blankie for him to cuddle in, but he didn’t really want to stay in it. Eventually, Mark decided to place him in a box with the blankie inside, and let him rest for a while. Someone was coming in the afternoon to install our big wireless internet receiver thingy out on the balcony, and there would be some noisy drilling, so it would be better if dear Baby Bird came inside for a rest.

I got back to my sweet potato fluff and Baby Bird was peacefully on the counter in the box, never making a sound. I was occasionally freaked out as I walked past the box thinking…this bird could decide he feels better and explode outta that box at any minute! I found myself taking routes around the flat that avoided getting near the front of the box where the lid was slightly ajar. Eventually he started to stir a little, after the outdoor maintenance was finished, and Mark took him back outside to see if he wanted to get out and perhaps fly off. I was a little concerned about letting him out of the nest so soon. Motherly instincts.

Anyway, he perched on the edge of the box like so:

Out of the nest again?

Mark helped him out of the box, and at one point he tried to fly away, but THUD! He hit the ledge just below the railing on the balcony, and we felt so so sorry for him. I thought perhaps he would need to rest a while longer. Mark picked him up again and held him for a while. I went back inside to continue Facebooking my Mom or something, and all of a sudden heard Mark shouting, “GO BIRDIE, GO BIRDIE, GO BIRDIE GO!!! OH NOOOO!!!!” I scurried back onto the balcony to discover that our bird decided to take another leap of faith, made it out halfway across the harbour, and then ran out of gas. We watched in shock and utter disappointment. After a big wet feathery raucous, he was just floating along in the water, struggling to get to shore. It was clear he wasn’t going to make it. I immediately remembered the net down by the pool for scooping up leaves and said, “Mark, you could go get the net at the pool and run and fish him out! Maybe he’ll still be okay!” Then we watched as a seagull took a couple of pecks at him and we shouted, “No, seagull! No!”

The plan was in action. Mark rushed down to the pool, grabbed the net, and ran around the harbour to where the bird was. I stayed on the balcony to keep an eye on the bird and direct Mark to where he’d floated when he made it to the other side. (The Bear napped through this entire adventure). Mark arrived to the rescue amazingly quickly. Only there was an issue. The net was not long enough to reach our feathered friend. I stood there and could see the disappointment on Mark’s face as he scrambled along the rocks and tried to figure out what to do. And since there was no other way to rescue him, let’s be honest, in my heart of hearts, I really hoped Mark would go for a swim for our bird.

And he did.

To the Rescue

As you can see, the local cormorant and crane, and two geese looked on, but did nothing to help our birdie friend. Birds of a feather… It was at about this stage that I remembered we’d just five minutes before seen Harold, the local harbour seal, up to his shenanigans, no more than thirty or forty feet from where Mark went for a swim. We have heard that Harold can be rather aggressive because he is so used to humans, and always expects them to feed him. So I was snapping photos and praying, “Lord please don’t let the seal attack my husband! Lord please don’t let the seal attack my husband!”

Finally, Mark was back on shore with the bird in tow. I quickly found a towel and hurried down to meet him. He came around the corner, bird in one hand, pool net and flip flops in the other. And that was when he broke the news. Our bird didn’t make it. It was either the pecks of the seagull or the little birdie lungs full of water that did him in. At least we know it was quick and hopefully peaceful. The soggy hero returned:

Soggy Hero's Welcome

It was a really sad moment. We were bummed for a bit of the afternoon that our birdie friend didn’t make it. But I think someday Mark will do something like this again, when the Bear is old enough to understand what’s going on, and he will be so proud of his Not-the-Croc-Hunter-but-still-great-with-animals Dad. I already am.

Here’s to a Hero of a Hubs!