For Charlotte L, Charlotte B, Aunty Ro
and all of the beautiful animals you have saved, rescued and healed.
“Teaching us to adapt to any situation, whilst learning quickly, the jay’s intelligence shows us how to use the power of our own intellect and courage. Its discrete silence and patient timing encourages us to be discerning in our use of sound to communicate. Less is more. Trust, loyalty and higher awareness are the gifts shared by this beautiful bird.”
Claire sauntered extra slowly along the usual path, the heat of the late evening making even this pace feel tiring; but at least it was finally cool enough to leave the house. For anyone with pets, the last few days had been interminable; they simply couldn’t go out during the daytime in these scorching temperatures. So the hours had passed at a sluggish speed, indoors, waiting for the moment when the air and ground might be bearable enough for small lungs and paws to tolerate.
As she ambled, she looked ahead, admiring the golden hue of the leaves in the now setting sun. Noticing a couple at the foot of a series of steps leading up and away from the main path, she meandered in their direction. The man was squatting down on the ground. He seemed to be trying to take a photo of something very small beneath him. The woman, stood upright behind him, was looking hesitant. Immediately, something in the energy emanating from the scene left Claire feeling uncomfortable.
“Is everything alright?” she called over, walking up behind them. She sensed she might already know the answer.
“Erm… .” The lady’s face wore a look of deep concern.
“I think he’s asleep,” the man responded, turning to look up at the second woman now stood alongside him. “I was trying to take a photo of him.”
“Right,” Claire said, wondering why anyone would try to take a photo of a tiny, motionless creature in the middle of a heatwave. Attempting to see things from the couple’s perspective, she realised they maybe didn’t have much knowledge about wildlife.
“My guess is that it’s not sleeping. It’s probably in shock and dehydrated. Today’s temperature has been off the charts. Might I look at him?”
The man very willingly stood up and stepped aside.
“OK,” Claire crouched right down to inspect the little ball of what she could see now were feathers. “He’s probably very scared, and needs a drink. Have you got any water? I’ve just used up the last of mine.”
The couple both shook their heads. Doing a quick visual check, Claire could see no sign of any nest or parent bird.
“I think we may need to rescue this little one or he’s won’t survive. Would you have a bag with you?”
Shaking heads again.
“No problem. I’m going to do something called reiki healing, to try and revive him a bit. Then we’ll get creative.”
Bending back down, she began to trace the Cho Ku Rei and Sei He Ki symbols across her palms. Then she placed them very tenderly either side of the bird, close to, but not touching it. Concentrating earnestly, she asked the universe to deliver the right kind of healing to the exhausted little mass before her. Then, breathing in and out deeply, she waited. The couple behind her waited too, although they were barely breathing at all.
As the three humans stood focused on the little feather ball, willing it to be alright, one of its tiny wings suddenly flapped up and out to one side. The beautiful glossy blue and black colouring on the feathers at the bottom of its wing caught all of their eyes. It was striking, and wholly unexpected from the otherwise very non-descript, brown creature.
A second or two later, both wings flapped out to the side. A little head reared up from where it had been buried in the bird’s chest. Claire looked into its beautiful pale turquoise eyes and it looked straight back at her, frightened but hopeful. Please help the minute eyes said. Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine Claire’s larger human ones assured it.
On raising her face back up towards the couple, they were smiling down at her.
“Not everyone believes in it,” she explained, “but it works.” They didn’t need to say anything to show that they trusted what she was saying to be true.
Rolling up the bottom of her yellow, floral sun top, Claire prepared a cocoon in which to place the baby bird. It continued to flap its wings once inside. She held the handle of the dog lead towards the lady. “Could you take Agnes, please? I’ll need both hands to keep this little one in here.” The lady took the lead and nodded. Squatting down, she petted the small dog who was taking an interest in the little flapping ball now that she had worked out what it was.
Claire cupped the diminutive body of the bird in her hands, ensuring that she applied only the very minimum amount of pressure.
“I’m going to take you home and make you better,” Claire whispered into the fluffiness of the down between its feathered wings. “You just rest now.”
As they all walked back up the path towards the park entrance, the couple explained they lived some distance away or they would have taken the bird home themselves. Claire reassured them that she only lived just a couple of streets away. She could bring their little rescue back the park again very easily. The couple look relieved.
“Look Monty, it’s Agnes!” A familiar voice a few metres away caught Claire’s attention. One of her neighbours was heading towards them with her dog.
“Hi Selena. We’re on a bit of rescue mission.”
“Oooh, what have you got there?”
“A little fledgling.” Claire pulled her top down over the little bird’s head so it was visible for a second or two.
“It’s a little jay!”
“I know. Beautiful, isn’t he?”
“Rescue centre?” Selena suggested.
“It’s a bit late now. I’m thinking it might need to overnight with me.”
“Have you got everything you need?” Selena asked. “I’ve got a box at home. And maybe a little syringe for water too. Would it help if we walked back via mine so I can take Agnes whilst you hang on to the little guy?”
Claire marvelled at how quickly a team of humans had rallied around to look after this tiny creature which moments ago had been alone and vulnerable.
“Thanks Selena, sounds perfect.” Looking over at the couple’s relieved faces, they told her all she needed to know. They were glad that someone else had appeared and could help.
“Take my number and I can let you know how he’s getting on?” Claire offered, as they reached the corner of the road where the couple’s car was parked.
“Oh yes, definitely. I’m Helen.” The lady typed the number Claire recited into her phone and gave her a missed call. “I really hope he’s going to be OK,” she said, her face full of concern.
“Of course he will,” Claire reassured her. “He’s a little fighter, I can just tell.”
As Selena opened Claire’s front door and they made their way inside, daylight was already beginning to disappear. But the overwhelming heat remained. Checking all of the windows were still open, they headed for the kitchen. Claire wondered what the warm night ahead might hold, for a moment, before stopped herself before her thoughts could truly start to unravel into any kind of imagined story. A minute at a time she reminded herself.
“Well at least he had a bit of water!” Selena removed Agnes’ dog lead and watched Claire as she opened the box to check on its precious contents. “Still awake?”
“It’s hard to tell,” Claire admitted. “He’s curled himself up again. Mind you, he’s just had syringe of water practically forced down his beak! Perhaps he’s a bit pissed off with us?”
Selena laughed. They weren’t sure whether it had been the right thing to do or not, but it had been done with the best of intentions.
“Right, I’m going to phone the all night vets quickly and see what they say.” Claire dialled the number and placed the call on speakerphone so Selena could listen in too.
“Hello, West Mount out-of-hours service, how can I help?”
“Hi there. I’m calling about a little fledgling I’ve just brought home from the park. We found him in shock and dehydrated. No nest or parents around. Do you know of anyone who might be able to give us some advice about taking care of him?” She made sure to add hopeful intonation to her request.
“Well Meltham Rescue Centre is full to capacity. But there’s a local man who’s an expert in rehabilitating wild birds….Paul. He’s usually awake this time of night. I’d text rather than call. I’ll give you his number now.”
Claire noted the details down, thanked the receptionist and hung up.
“I’m going to text him right now Selena. Just to make sure I know what to do about this little one’s hydration overnight.”
Hi Paul. Hope you’re well. My vets just gave me your number. I’ve rescued a little jay fledgling that’s in pretty serious shock and very dehydrated. Would you have any advice to keep us going? Claire
Knowing it could take some time for a reply to arrive, Selena took a last little glance into the box. “My daughter’s due to arrive any minute. I’d best be off. Good luck and let me know how you get on tomorrow? I’m rooting for him.”
“I will do. Thanks for the help. Text you once we know how he’s faring.”
Walking back into the kitchen, Claire picked her phone up to check for messages.
Hi there. Sorry, you might be in bed by now. I’ve been helping a wood pigeon with a contaminated gut! If you can make sure it’s indoors, safe, with water and food – dog food is good – then call me in the morning. Regards, Paul.
Phew. They weren’t in this on their own. That was a relief.
“So, little Jay,” Claire whispered, peeking into the box which she’d covered with a tea towel to simulate night-time for the little fledgling. “Let’s just try and get through tonight and in the morning things will look a whole lot better!” Unsure whether or not she was seeing what she thought she was, she flicked the kitchen light on for just a second. No. It was as she’d thought. In shock, perhaps even asleep, he may have been. And who knew when he’d last had any food. But that certainly hadn’t affected the workings of his minuscule bowels in any way! She laughed to herself, flipping the light back off. She’d leave it an hour or so and then replace his tea towel bedding.
Claire slept half of that night on the sofa, a few feet away from where little Jay was curled up in his box on the kitchen counter. Each time she did a quick inspection, she found him in one corner of the box. His head was rolled up protectively within his fluffy down body. Watching him closely, the tiny inflation and deflation of his torso reassured her that he was still breathing. With a sigh, she resumed her position on the sofa. If he could make it through the next few hours then things would turn out just as they should, she was sure of it.
The following morning, Jay was awake by the time Claire and Agnes ventured into the kitchen. The scuffling in his box sounded at moments like there was a much bigger bird in there. Growing into his wings. She liked that.
“OK, so what does a baby fledgling usually have for breakfast?” Claire asked out loud, opening up the two flaps of the box she had closed over. The gap between them and the handle holes at the side had been more than enough to ensure he had a decent flow of air overnight, whilst keeping him snugly and warm. At least the heatwave was ensuring her little charge stayed at the forty-degree or so temperature he needed for his well-being.
“Great, I was thinking just the same!” Claire said into the silence, humorously. “Mushed up dog food it is!”
She’d already soaked some dog biscuits down overnight. So, she broke a couple up into tiny morsels and placed them around the edge of the smallest saucer she could find. Filling the central portion with a small amount of water, she then carefully placed the breakfast down in Jay’s box. He continued to shuffle around a little bit, stretching his wings out the odd time. Looking up at her and then back down at the meal in his box, he didn’t seem overly convinced.
“Well, that’s all you can have for now, so go wild,” Claire encouraged. “You must be feeling a least a little bit peckish!”
Unsure of what she was supposed to do next, even if Jay resorted to nibbling at his appetising feast, she sat down and pulled up the Internet on her phone. Typing in ‘Fledgling bird rehabilitation’, she began to read. It was still only early. Paul the wild bird rehab man probably wouldn’t be around for a little while. She’d just have to be resourceful and inform herself this way for the time being.
Life homing a fledgling wild bird was a whole new kind of education, Claire discovered over the next few hours. It relied not only on gaining new subject-specific knowledge. She also had to use her maternal and nurturing instinct more than she ever had before. A baby bird is in some ways even more delicate than a baby human. Its partial feathers, tiny head, eyes and feet, are all so fragile. It is a little like taking care of an exquisite, miniature china teacup. Every touch, the mere attempt to pick it up, feels as though it could result in it shattering to pieces if enough care is not taken. At the same time, to reconnect with the fragility of life itself is a precious gift. It is an experience that brings about learning of an entirely different type to that gained through formal education. It is a lesson in using all the sentience that a human being possesses, both instinctively and intuitively.
By mid-morning, Claire was thoroughly engaged in the unexpected lessons the day was teaching her, and felt it was late enough to send a quick text to Paul:
Morning Paul. This morning Jay is much more lively. Both wings have been stretched out and he’s made an attempt to fly. Is it worth me taking his box back to where he was found? Could put it on the side there and sit whilst I see if mum and dad are around and come for him? Or should I just hold tight? Shock definitely seems to be gone! Claire
Within seconds, she had received a response:
Morning love. Please send a couple of photos to evaluate better via Whatsapp. Paul
Thinking it might be even better to send a video, Claire made a short clip and sent it over. A thumbs up came back in response. Within a minute or two, an incoming call arrived.
“Hi Claire. Great to hear it’s gone well overnight. Well done love! I’ve got fifty-six rescues with me at the mo. In this heat I’m not going to try and get them back out there for a day or two. It’s definitely worth trying with this little one if you can. He looks in fairly good shape.”
Claire was both relieved at the assistance and at the news that an expert thought little Jay appeared to be doing well.
“Thanks so much Paul. I so appreciate the help. You just want to get them back to where they belong really, don’t you?”
“Absolutely! But don’t worry. Sometimes it hasn’t happened and we’ve got a couple who are permanent fixtures at home now. Bo Bo’s an owl. She was merrily hopping around at our barbecue last night. A harvester took half of her wing off. When she was brought to me and I took her to the vets, they wanted to put her down. I told them that when they started euthanizing people in wheelchairs they could have her. She’s been with me ever since!”
Claire couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Anyone who was prepared to go to those lengths to save an injured bird was an incredible human being. She loved it when she came across people like Paul.
“I’ll send you a pic, love. And in the meantime, keep on in there!”
“We will,” Claire assured him. “Thanks Paul.”
Aware that she had to get some work done too, the subsequent hours were spent working at a laptop in the kitchen, whilst keeping a constant eye on the little body in the box alongside her. Sometimes it was as if the box was empty. At others there was no doubting that the box contained a living specimen. Tiny wing punches and kicks could be heard against the sides. The scrabbling sound of teeny feet across the china saucer. And every time she did a proper inspection, there was yet more poop. Little Jay was clearly digesting something when she wasn’t looking!
Changing the tea towel mid-afternoon – a whole wash just for Jay’s used bedding was looking imminent – Claire decided the dining table by the French doors might be a better location for the box. It was almost as wide as the kitchen counter. That didn’t give much wiggle room when the lively body inside got a burst of energy. Half an hour later, after momentarily checking on Jay and ensuring the two flaps were placed back down, she went to the fridge. The temperature was much more comfortable than the previous day, but it was still very warm and humid. Bending down to get a drink, there was a sudden commotion from where she had just been stood. Looking up, she saw little Jay emerge, as if levitating, through the two loose flaps on the top of the box. His wings were flapping vigorously. Making it across a few centimetres of air, he felt to the ground with a soft ‘splat’. He had landed between her two hand weights under one end of the table. Oh crap!
As she jumped back up, the third living being in the kitchen – Agnes – had already caught sight of the recent arrival on the floor. She made an attempt to run towards it. Fortunately, the laminate flooring under her paws slowed her down. So she did a very faithful impression of one of the cartoon dogs in Scooby Doo, running on the spot for a second or two. That gave Claire just the time she needed to dive over and under the table, rescuing little Jay for the second time in as many days. For the love of God! Falling onto a chair beside the table to let her heartbeat slow down, Claire held the bird, still flapping, above her head. Agnes performed circus-worthy jumps trying to get at it, but without any success. You couldn’t write this stuff! Claire thought. But if we all make it through this, I just might!
Popping Jay safely back in his box, she re-closed the two flaps. This time she remembered to place a decent-sized dish on top too. Another comedy cartoon moment like that she could do without!
At exactly three o’clock, little Jay seemed at last to find his voice. Paul had mentioned in a lunchtime text that he needed to do this in order to call out for his mum. Unsure whether to be proud of him for this gain in confidence, or worried because he was missing his mother so much, Claire went over to his box to both praise and comfort him.
“Well done little fella! That’s quite the pair of lungs you’ve got on you. I know you’re missing her. But I promise I’m going to have you back with her as soon as I can.” She reached in and tenderly stroked her forefinger across his tiny head and down his back. This seemed to calm him slightly, so she did it again. He let out another little squawk so she repeated the action. Again, he stopped making the noise momentarily.
“Well that’s progress,” Claire said to herself out loud, happy that she was able to make the little bird feel more at ease in some way. “Only I do have to get a few things done. Perhaps it’s time for us to take a walk in the park and see if your actual mum’s around?”
In another text, Paul had mentioned that transporting Jay in an animal carrier was the best way to go. Claire had therefore retrieved Agnes’ soft, black material carrier from down one side of her wardrobe and lined it with a tea towel. Taking the little bundle of feathers out of his current box home, she manoeuvred him very carefully into the carrier. Then she placed his little saucer of food in after him.
“In case you get peckish on the walk over there.” Slowly zipping up the carrier, Claire continued to talk to Jay reassuringly so he knew she was still there.
Walking up the road towards the park and along the path towards its main entrance, a number of people stopped the trio.
“Oooh, what have you got in there?”
“It’s a little jay fledgling,” Claire told them.
“Oh my God, he’s so cute!”
Claire smiled. She had to admit that Jay was one of the most striking birds she’d ever been in the presence of. From his colouring to his bright, inquisitive eyes, he really was something special.
“I hope it all goes well,” another passer-by said when she told him of her plan to try and release the bird.
“So do we,” Claire replied, crossing the fingers on her free hand.
The first release attempt was just that. An attempt. Leaving Jay alone in the carrier, Claire had stood at some distance to watch and observe what happened. When he’d begun to call out for his parents, her heart had almost broken. The level of distress in the sound far surpassed that of any human baby wailing to be fed. A few people had stopped by to ask what was happening and had stood to watch for a moment. But wildlife release can be a very slow process. So they soon wandered off again.
At one point, Claire was convinced she’d seen Jay’s mother swoop down close to him and then onto a nearby tree. Yet she hadn’t come to land anywhere in the direct vicinity of the carrier during the half an hour they’d been there. The only time she was to unzip it was when that happened, Paul had said. Otherwise, little Jay would become perfect pray for other birds wanting to eradicate competition for their own young, or even to eat him. Eventually, Claire went over, picked up the carrier and set off back home, with Jay squawking continually as they went. Both bird and rescuer felt so dejected that they had to have a little cuddle once indoors again, to remind themselves that all was not lost. They’d only tried once. They would simply try again, until they were successful. There was a child to be reunited with its mother after all. Giving up wasn’t an option.
First release attempt unsuccessful. Claire texted Paul. Would it be worth me taking him back later this evening? I could leave him in a little bush beside where I found him, in case Mum is too scared whilst she can see me?
Probably not. Paul replied. He won’t stand a chance on his own and his parents could take ages to turn up. They often do.
Claire spent the rest of the day wondering if she’d gotten it all wrong. Perhaps just wishing for a beautiful reunion with his family was never going to be enough. Maybe Jay was going to have to live with a human long enough for him to become independent and then fend for himself out in the wild again. That solution didn’t seem like an entirely bad one. But something inside her told Claire that little Jay deserved more. He’d fought this far. She was only his foster mum and she knew she would spend every day looking for him if ever he left her sight. So his Mum was definitely out there. For her female counterpart in the bird world, as well as Jay, she’d just have to keep on in there.
“Seems like we might be spending another night together, buddy,” she explained to him, once he was back on the dining table. “At least we know which side of the box you like to sleep on now, hey?”
I’m going to try again tomorrow. Claire told Paul in a text during the late evening.
Perhaps you could bring him over here if it doesn’t work? Paul responded.
The offer was a really tempting one, and as Claire got ready for bed she thought maybe it was the right one.
“But something brought us together,” she said softly to Jay, giving him a goodnight stroke. “So let’s sleep on it. I still think we can get you right back where you belong. In fact, I’m sure of it.”
The following morning, Claire sent Paul an update. No response. At lunchtime she sent another once. Again no response. She knew he had a lot on his hands, so it wasn’t a total surprise. Instinct therefore told her that she would have to start training the little bird up to be independent herself. They had no time to play with. Each hour he was away from his proper home was an hour that made it more challenging to reintroduce him back there.
“Right, little mate,” Claire said, decisively. “First things first. We’ve got to get you flying.”
Lifting him out of his box, she took a couple of steps out into the garden, sat down on the floor and placed Jay beside her.
“There you go,” Claire encouraged him gently. “See what you can do when you’re out, literally free as a bird.”
Standing back up, she closed the double doors leading out of the kitchen, just as a small, canine face appeared behind them. Agnes looked none too pleased to be left out of what was going on in her garden.
“She’ll get over it,” Claire joked, as she turned back to the fledgling that looked all the smaller now it was sat alone in the middle of a sizeable expanse of green.
Watching him carefully, at first, Jay merely stood on the spot, looking perplexed at the change of location. The plants, trees, fence and garden furniture around him must have seemed bemusing and rather frightening.
“Don’t worry,” Claire whispered to him, “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”
The little bird’s bright eyes darted around him, as if on the lookout for a predator. Clearly baby birds were already innately attuned to the dangers that may be lurking in their surroundings.
“The only threat around is right over there and she’s not getting anywhere near you.” Claire stuck her tongue out at Agnes. Grappling at the glass doors for a while to try and get outside to them both, eventually the teddy bear-like face showed signs of tiring. Then it lost interest altogether and trotted back into the living room.
Almost as if he knew the threat had been removed, Jay spontaneously flapped both of his wings a few times. On about the fourth or fifth flap, his delicate feet hopped across the floor, making it look a bit like he was doing kangaroo jumps.
“Yeeeees!” Claire congratulated him. “That’s the way! Go on, have another go!”
For the next few minutes, Jay joyfully experimented with his new means of movement as his rescuer looked on with excitement and filled with renewed hope. He was already wanting to fly. It was a satisfying sign that the brave little bird wanted to return to his natural habitat. Claire felt her heart fill with pride and hope as she scooped him back up again.
“OK, that’ll do for now. We’ll try again in a bit. Then later this afternoon we’re going to try and get you right back where you belong again!”
Hi Charlotte! Paul seems to have gone a little bit AWOL. So Jay and I are kind of on our own for now. Do you want to meet us in the park for release attempt two? And could I perhaps have a ‘you can do this!’ please?
When none of her texts had been responded to by that afternoon, Claire started to wonder whether she could actually go through another release attempt alone. It had been so sad to return home unsuccessful the previous day. She didn’t relish the thought of repeating the experience.
You can do this! Absolutely. See you around 3:30pm. Charlotte X
The response from her friend gave her just the lift she needed. She could do this. Instinct was telling her that now was the right time. If she kept him any longer, little Jay might start to become a bit too tame and comfortable around her. That wasn’t what nature, or she, had intended for him.
So, at a quarter past three, she carefully transported Jay back into his carrier. Popping the lead on Agnes, the unlikely trio then made their way up the street to the park again. This time, a number of people eyed the strange squawks coming from the carrier curiously. But no-one made any comment.
As she reached the spot where she’d found him, Claire placed the carrier gently on the floor.
“I’m going be just over there. I promise. But no-one’s coming for you if they catch sight of me here.”
Making her way across the path to a large fallen tree trunk, she sat down and put Agnes on her knee. They were far enough away not to bother any of Jay’s family that might appear. But close enough to see exactly what was happening. All they had to do now was wait.
The temperature having cooled a lot over the previous day or so, people were back out strolling through the park in the daytime again. A few looked over with interest as they passed and heard little Jay start to call out for his mother.
“That’s right Jay! Keep going! She needs to hear you,” Claire called across encouragingly.
The odd person seemed to work out what was happening and smiled as they walked by. A couple appeared with two dogs and were just about to let them go and sniff the carrier when Claire intervened. She asked if they might pull them away to prevent the bird going back into shock. They apologised and made lots of oooohing and aaaaahing sounds. Returning to the tree trunk, Claire gave a deep sigh and looked up to the sky, willing the right thing to happen.
As she asked the heavens for a bit of divine intervention, there was suddenly a second, louder, deeper squawk, between two of Jay’s soft, higher pitched ones. And then… there it was again! As she looked all around her for the source, a bird swooped out of the tree top above her and down over towards the carrier. Landing in a bush to one side of it, the conversation in squawks continued. And then the bird promptly hopped out and across to almost right beside little Jay. It looked just like him, but a larger version. It was his mum!
Remembering the advice Paul had given her, Claire slowly stood up, ready to cross over the path and unzip the carrier so Jay’s mother could access him. As she did, Jay’s mother looked her way and became frightened. So she flew up overhead and into a tree right behind the fallen tree trunk Claire had been sitting on. At exactly this moment, a group of four or five teenagers kicking a bright yellow football between them appeared around the corner. Looking between bird and ball, Claire lost no time. Running over to the group, she explained what she was doing. “Do you think you might detour to the other side of the path so you don’t scare his mother even further away?”
A little surprised, they agreed and wandered off, looking back over their shoulders nonchalantly, but obviously keen to see what was happening. Claire quickly unzipped the carrier and backed up to her fallen tree trunk observation post.
Jay hopped out of the carrier and looked around him, obviously intimidated by the sheer size of the steps, bushes and long path beside him. After just a squawk or two – which pulled at Claire’s heart strings as she knew she couldn’t risk going back to comfort him – his mother appeared again. She soared in and out among the treetops. Hoping this was a good sign, Claire felt her body relax a little. As she gazed along the path, she was glad to see no other groups of youngsters in either direction. What did catch her eye was Charlotte heading towards her in the distance. Giving a wave to her friend, Claire indicated with a thumbs-up that things were going well. Then she gestured over to her to make the same detour the youngsters had done. As Charlotte arrived at the tree trunk, Jay’s mother swooped down once again. This time, she stopped and appeared to place something directly into his beak.
“Look, she’s feeding him!” Charlotte said excitedly.
“And I think that’s maybe his dad up there behind us too!”
Claire turned and scanned the tree directly overhead. Another bird looking just like Jay and his mother was sitting on one of the branches. He let out a call and Jay responded with a squawk.
“It is! His dad’s here too! I’m going to put him on that log in the bush under the tree. He’ll be safer there.”
As Claire hurried over to pick Jay up one final time, she felt emotion overwhelm her. A bitter sweet mix of exhilaration and sadness. The moment she’d hoped for, envisaged and truly believed could happen, was here. Her bird foster son was going back to his mum and dad. Exactly where he should be. If his mother was already feeding him, he’d be welcomed back into the family. Holding him gently between her palms and cradled against her chest, Claire carried Jay across the path. She placed him carefully on the log underneath where they had seen his father.
Leaning down, she whispered to him. “Bye sweetheart. Have a happy life. Love you.”
Running back over to grab the carrier, she joined Charlotte. Moving away from the ground tree trunk, they continued further on into the park, looking back every so often.
“His dad’s flown down too! They’re both with him now!”
Claire felt a lump in her throat as tears welled up in her eyes.
“He is Charlotte. He’s back where he belongs.”
As her friend gave her a hug of congratulation and consolation, Claire smiled. She could still feel the softness of the down feathers touching her palms. The fragility of the delicate body balanced between her hands. The warmth of the little ball of life just starting out on its journey in the world.
Hi Paul. Just to let you know, release attempt two was a success. His mum and dad came back, mum fed him and he’s with both of them now. Claire X
Amazing! Well done love! So pleased to hear that. Glad to help. Paul X
Any news on little Jay? Is he doing OK? Selena X
Dropped him off earlier, back in the park with mum and dad. He’s going to be just fine. Claire X
Fantastic! Selena X
Hi Claire, it’s Helen here. Just wondering how our little bird is doing?
Hi Helen. Good news! I’ve just left Jay back with his mum and dad. It’s a happy ending. Great teamwork! He’ll be safe now. Claire X
I’m so pleased! Thank you for helping him. I’m from the Ukraine and I’ve met so many kind people here in the UK. X
Over the next few weeks, as Claire walked Agnes through the park just after dawn, she looked up at every tree top with hope. Sometimes, from amidst the rustling of leaves in a light breeze, birds would swoop or soar out. Mostly, they were magpies, or blackbirds. On the odd occasion, as she passed underneath the tree where she had left Jay to reunite with his parents, she heard a squawk. Sometimes it was a solitary sound. At others, a number came in quick succession. The same birdsong, but from more than one of the same species. And high up, upon a branch, hidden behind a curtain of swaying greenery, she would catch a glimpse of a jay bird or two. Because little Jay had his own way of telling her that he was safe and well again. A quick glance down at her with his bright, inquisitive eyes told her he was happy, and healthy, and very grateful to be home.
Those we love come into our life for an undefined period to help teach us something. Most will leave again. What we choose to learn from their presence and the way it helps our growth is entirely up to us.
Jay taught me that real love brings people together. It seeks you out. It is often unexpected. It is selfless. It is unconditional. It is forever. And if you have a heart big and courageous enough, you will always allow it a place there.
To Jay, May you fly freely through this world sharing your special love with everyone you meet. Thank you for sharing it with me for just a short moment in time. I shall never forget you. Love, Claire X