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Christmas Day Starling

One of the main focuses on my original One Munching Momma blog was the many nature opportunities the kids and I had the joy of experiencing. From watching a luna moth caterpillar transform into a moth, a dung beetle rolling its prized ball of dung down the driveway, observing the life cycle of frogs from eggs to adulthood, and many escapades between pets and wildlife, the twenty-one wooded acres of land we lived on were a great source of entertainment for us and my faithful followers.

Now, we live in a neighborhood surrounded by more houses than trees. When I bought this house, I remember telling myself-“Well, there won’t be anymore cool nature stories to share”.

But I figured wrong.

It is Christmas Day, 2021. Sedona, my daughter, sprawls out on the brown, leather-like couch and commences to chat. I sit in the overstuffed, matching recliner and settle in for a lengthy discussion. Whenever my daughter talks, I can always count on not getting away anytime soon. This time was no different.

An hour later, she yawns, stands up and says, “I’m going to go take a nap. Oh, and by the way, you know those birds that get up under the corner of the house roof? Well, they’ve been making a lot of racket this week!”. She saunters off to her room as I make a mental note to plug that space under the eave at some point in the future.

After she leaves, the quietness of the house gets to me and I tire of sitting around. Brilliant sunshine and an unusually warm Christmas are calling, so I answer.

At first, I plan to walk down the road, but then I realize that it has been a while since I last walked around the perimeter of the property. As I pass by the corner where the troublesome starlings are supposedly hanging out, I note something a bit odd. When I peer up at the space under the corner of the metal roofing, I see no starlings, yet my daughter was right-something is making quite a ruckus.

I step closer to the house and listen intently. There is no sound of chirping, only the sound of bird claws scritch-scratching on metal. I shake my head in disbelief. I lean in closer and put my ear up to the metal drain pipe attached parallel to the corner of the house. About three-fourths of the way down from the top of the pipe where it connects to the gutter, the sound of sharp bird claws intensifies.

In disbelief, I step back, trying to make sense of what I am hearing. Clearly a bird is in there, but how and why wasn’t it getting out? I kneel down on the ground, remove the curved, black tubing attached to the drain pipe and peer up into the end of the white, metal tunnel. There was my why. Debris, matted together into a tight plug keeps me from seeing very far. I grab a stick and begin poking the mass. A little bit gave, so I eagerly jab the stick up the drainpipe only to have the dry, rotten stick snap into three pieces.

Quickly I scan the yard for fallen branches. There, over by the oak, a thicker and stronger stick. I dart over to the tree, grab it, rush back and commence to jabbing the mass again.

But there is a problem. The drainpipe curves and my stick is straight. It will only go so far. In the meantime, the scritch-scratch of bird claws is becoming increasingly frantic. I’m not sure if the noise I’m making is scaring the creature or if it knows help is on the way.

Desperate to rescue the bird, I run inside and call to my son.

“William! I need your help! There’s some kind of creature; I think it’s a bird, stuck in the drainpipe. I tried a stick but it’s not working. Have you got a curved tool?”

William gives me a funny look, then begins thinking. His face lights up and I know he has an idea.

“I’ll be right back”. He dashes out the back door to the outbuilding and then meets me by the corner of the house with a long, perfectly curved tool in hand.

I don’t have to say a word, the sounds coming from the drainpipe says it all. He drops to his knees and begins removing clump after clump of leaves and nesting material.

Then, the unexpected happens. As the last of the debris slides out, a curious mass of feathers follows and lands on the ground. My heart stops a moment when I realize that those are dead baby birds.

Movement at the drainpipe opening diverts my attention and I see a bedraggled black starling sitting in the opening, slightly stunned. He only sits for a moment and then flits off to land on the boney branch of a nearby tree.

William and I look at each other, mystified. Had all of these birds been in there the whole week and thus the loud noise Sedona had been hearing? Or had the previous birds, which looked like babies, fallen down the drain back in the summer and hadn’t decomposed fully and this other bird just happened to fall down and get stuck? We have no answers, but as I watch the newly released prisoner, my heart is filled with joy that we are able to save his little life.

I can’t imagine the terror that filled his little being as he struggled to find a way out of the blackness, only to find himself falling back down onto the top of dead relatives, over and over.

We have now dubbed him the Christmas starling and I find myself scanning the trees to see if he is there, but with so many other starlings around, it is hard to tell which one he is.

But I’m sure he’s somewhere nearby and I’m also sure he will never, ever forget the time he spent in the drainpipe!


Published by sandrah

Hmm...about me. Well, if you were to meet me in person, you would likely say I am quiet, reserved, maybe a tad shy, introspective, aloof, maybe even snobbish. Those who take the time to know me, find that I am someone who loves to talk one-on-on with others, enjoys hearing about people's life journeys, encourages others and easily gets lost in dreams. I am a writer and author with lots of ideas, but little time. I am mom to two awesome teenagers who are my inspiration each and every day, and a crazy rag doll cat named Hobbs. Most importantly, I am a child of God and will be eternally grateful for His working in my life. Thanks for stopping by!

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