by Leigh Scott, VLCE
posted Oct 20, 2020
On a glorious day in early September, my husband Mark and I went hiking with our two dogs along the banks of the Potomac River. The oppressive summer heat had finally broken, and it was a perfect day to go outdoors. The sky was cloudless and bright, and the temperature was pleasant, so we headed for a spot where we could sit on the riverbank and let the dogs explore to their hearts’ content.
The trail we chose that day was the C&O Canal Towpath, a wide, multi-use track that follows the Potomac River for many miles. The section we hiked contains numerous places where the shady, tree-lined bank is level and perfect for picnicking—or for the dogs to swim and drink. The river in that area is punctuated with rows of rocks that create gentle rapids, providing a peaceful soundtrack for relaxing on the riverbank. It’s a special place where the sights, smells, and sounds are a treat for the senses.
Upon finding the ideal spot, we sat down for lunch and unclipped the dogs’ leashes. As we ate, we watched a bird of prey catch a fish and eat it on a nearby tree branch. While I felt sorry for the fish, I was happy that the handsome raptor had found a nourishing meal.
After finishing my own lunch, I wandered out onto the wide, flat-topped rocks jutting into the river and sat down to enjoy the soothing sound of the flowing water. Soon Mark joined me, but he didn’t sit down. Instead, he pointed to a spot on the rock a few feet away from me and drew my attention to a little bird that was lying there.
Its tiny body was motionless, and s/he was lying flat on its side. At first we thought the little bird was dead. But looking closely, we realized that this fledgling was breathing. Knowing that fledglings should be left alone unless they are in distress, we watched it for several minutes with the hope that this little guy would stand up and fly away. Yet he (or she) remained completely immobile, so we sought the aid of a wildlife rehabber.
I carefully scooped the baby bird up into the palm of my hand and felt those tiny claws wrap around one of my fingers. I covered the little body loosely with my other hand, and we began walking back to the car. The bird rode very quietly in my cupped hands. As we neared the car, we managed to obtain a small box lined with paper towels, and I gently placed the patient inside.
Fortunately, we knew about a nearby rehab center. Appropriately named Second Chance Wildlife Center, it’s a facility that’s housed in an old farmhouse in Gaithersburg.
Several years ago I had worked there as a volunteer, and knew that they are (unbelievably) open 365 days each year. So as my husband drove, I called to arrange for one pediatric admission.
Upon arrival at the center, I filled out the admittance paperwork and handed the bird over to the admissions person. Knowing that the fledgling was now in good hands, Mark and I provided a donation to help cover the costs and then headed home.
After a few days, I emailed the center to check on the bird’s condition. I was relieved to receive their reply: “The Goldfinch is eating well and is still under continued care. Thank you so much for stepping in on Goldfinch’s behalf!”
I am very thankful for the skilled and dedicated rehabbers that work at Second Chance and other rescue centers. Their work can be extremely demanding and their days can be very long, particularly in baby season. And while I know that the rehabbers’ efforts are important for the individual animals that they treat and release, I don’t know how much it helps sustain the overall population of those animals. Still, their work serves an extremely important purpose in the human community: it enables us to express our compassion for animals in distress. Having wreaked considerable havoc on the environment, we humans can, at the very least, offer assistance to wild creatures in need.
Please consider supporting your local rehab center, if you are lucky enough to have one. Second Chance is in the middle of a capital campaign to construct a much-needed, specially-designed building. They would appreciate any donations you can provide.
Leigh Scott is a vegan chef and food blogger at olivethethymekitchen.com. Following a 25-year career as an environmental educator, she earned her culinary certificate in 2016 from the School of Natural Cookery in Colorado. Leigh has recently completed Rouxbe’s Forks Over Knives course, and she specializes in whole-food, plant-based cooking. She also serves on the boards of the Veg Society of DC and Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry. Leigh earned her VLCE certification at Main Street Vegan Academy in 2019.