Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Hot Apple Cider Ever

Not thin and watery like other hot cider recipes, this rich, sustaining, thick, full-flavored cider is what I serve at holiday parties and cold-weather get-togethers. It always wins compliments and I've mailed it out many times - here it is for the rest of the world to enjoy!

In a big pot, bring to a boil:

1 gallon Martinelli's apple juice
* my own taste tests find this superior to other cider or juice bases, though it's expensive

1/2 bag or box brown sugar
1/3 cube butter
1 TBSP Cinnamon

1/4 tsp each...
  ~ Nutmeg
  ~ Allspice
  ~ Ginger (or, cut up 4-5 quarter-sized pieces of fresh ginger if you have it)

A pinch of curry powder
One apple cut in thin slices

  ~ small handful of raisins
  ~ 3 pieces whole Star Anise (makes it look very festive and beautiful)
  ~ shaved orange peel (more beauty)
  ~ whole cloves (more beauty)

Add some good cheer
3 cups brandy
1 1/2 cup rum
* Warn your guests! Even if you double the alcohol, it is very hard to taste that it is there.

After boiling, simmer for 20 minutes and serve. A cinnamon stick makes a great stirrer. This recipe can keep for a week if covered, but take the apples out or they will fall apart and cause the drink to have a grainy texture. Enjoy!
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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Conversion to Orthodox Catholicism

I've always wanted to write this down, so here it is. I am the oldest daughter of 4 children, in an atheist family. At the age of 30, I converted to orthodox Catholicism. This is the story of my journey.

My parents are atheists. My father, an engineer who has won awards for satellite design, was brought up Methodist in rural Washington. My mother, an extremely lively and adaptable woman, was brought up Catholic in Stockton, but repudiated it. I grew up in the metropolitan Bay Area of California, sharing with my entire family a feeling that we were superior to most other people - especially people who were stupid enough to believe in God under any religion.

As I grew into my teen years, I recognized that there was something wrong with my parents' point of view. They talked a lot about high moral standards, but it was easy to see that their moral point of reference bent and changed, according to circumstances or popular culture. Worse, it was easy to see that if God did not exist, then there was nothing truly wrong with any particular action aside from the fear of the consequences of being caught.

Sometime during my teens I became aware that despite my parents' point of view, I did believe in God. I had had several vivid and unexplainable dreams about Jesus as a very young child, although no one had ever told me about Jesus and I should not have even had any idea what He looked like. But I believed that God was my enemy, and that He hated me. It satisfied me to disobey His commands whenever it seemed like a good idea to do so, although I did not see at the time how much many of my behaviours were destroying my life.

I did not really care about my life being destroyed, as I gradually became so troubled and unhappy that I did not at all care if I made it into my 30's. Meanwhile, although my parents had little idea what was going on with their children, one of my sisters was becoming catastrophically addicted to drugs. She became suicidal, and my parents checked her into a suicide ward against her will after my Mom came home one early afternoon in response to an urgent intuition and found her cutting her wrists in the upstairs bathroom.

The memory of this time is extremely clear for me. I went with my sister one afternoon to Eastridge, at the time the largest shopping center in the Bay Area. Later, I found out that ambulance personnel had been following us all around the mall, asking storekeepers if they had seen us, so that they could kidnap my sister and check her into a suicide ward. The mall was too big, and they never caught up with us. But they did catch up with my sister a few days later, and she was in and out of the suicide ward for two years.

I remember driving down the freeway to visit her one night. I was a California teen, on my way to visit my drug-addicted sister in the suicide unit. I thought that was so dramatic and cool. At the time, I was fascinated by people who were in trouble, and I was well on my deliberately orchestrated personal path to becoming one of them. I thought that having a messed-up life was glamourous and interesting.

Later, I found out that having a messed-up life is just messed up. But that realization took a long time to hit. In the meantime, not just my sister but nearly my whole family was suicidal. I did not find this out til much later. I and my siblings and even my mother and father were all concealing inner despair, while we dealt with the obvious and immediate issue of my sister's condition. I felt jealous of my sister, and I suspect my brother and other sister did too. All of us were courting death in one way or another, but my sister was getting the glory for being most obvious. It was a dark, sick point of view, but it was very real.

I was in college during most of this period, and was irritated to find myself still alive at graduation, when I received a B.A. in History from UCLA. The edge had worn off of my troubled phase, and the parts of my life I had successfully messed up were now just messed up parts of my life, no longer glamorous or emotionally interesting. I wasn't angry enough any more at God or myself to want to die. I was upset at God for forcing me to keep on going. I was bored.

Trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life and working kept me more or less out of trouble for the next two or three years. I was a smart and good worker who learned fast, and my career took leap after leap until I landed in a corporate job that caused a sudden change. In California at that time, corporations responded to fluctuations on Wall Street by laying off employees every time the stock took a drop. All of the people I worked with, mostly people in their mid-20's, were enduring inhuman expectations for overtime and performance. Hardly anyone went home before 8:00 p.m., although we came in at 8:00 a.m. I burned out.

One day, against stern warnings that I was ruining my career, my future and my life (which I still didn't care much about), I gave notice. At lunch, I got a passport and bought airline tickets to Scotland. My short-term plan was to become an illegal immigrant. I had no long-term plan because I still expected to die relatively young, only now I expected it to be from a car accident or a random crime instead of anything I was doing to live dangerously. I really wasn't living very dangerously right then. I was too burned out from work.

To my surprise, it was not any easier to immigrate illegally to Europe than it is for an unauthorized person to immigrate illegally here, to the United States. So, after six weeks, I came back. I landed in Sacramento.

But now it was much harder to get a job. After three months of searching, and coming very close to running out of funds, a temporary agency hesitantly asked me if I would accept a position with the Sacramento Diocese. The position was way beneath my skillset, but I accepted gladly. I was getting worried about being hungry. I remember making a comment to the recruiter. I said, "It will be just like an excursion into a Medieval institution!" My interest in history was piqued, and my family is historically Irish Catholic. I thought it would be neat to observe those quaint people who still held onto something so ridiculously outmoded.

The Diocese really was fun. Everyone was so nice, and it amused me that they seemed to keep on trying to gently prod my sturdily atheist exterior. I had an intelligent, superior, correct and properly referenced answer for every question. I became puzzled that my arguments didn't seem to pierce their belief.

One day I was tremendously startled. On a feast day, the entire Diocesan staff celebrated with lunch and a prayer by the Bishop. The Bishop urged his Catholic staff to not lose focus. He said, "We are not like the company across the parking lot, and we are not like the DMV across the street. We serve a higher purpose. We are working for God."

The words sent a shock down my spine.

Let no Christian ever wonder if his or her words are wasted. Some soul is listening, even if it is not the one you are addressing.

That is the point that I call the beginning. But a lot more was going on.

My job with the Diocese was so easy, I had a lot of time to think. I wasn't thinking about God, but I was thinking about my life. I didn't like it, and didn't want it, but I was clearly stuck with it.

I was having terrifying dreams. I would be walking somewhere, and out of nowhere a terrifying force of malevolent sentience would identify me from the sky and would rush forward to annihilate me. There is no way to adequately describe the shocking terror this inspired. The force wanted to destroy me personally, and the destruction would be far worse than just death. In one dream, I was forced to run toward an axe murderer in an empty parking lot, who was actually holding an axe, because regular ordinary death at the hands of an axe murderer was welcome in comparison to the alternative.

I was also becoming aware of some very disturbing trends in American culture and media. One day I thought, "This can't be random. It's deliberate. Someone is intelligently directing and controlling popular media and popular thought." But I realized that no one person could control so many things - television, commentary, newspapers, magazines, movies, music, university intelligentsia, and all the many threads that tie our cultural consciousness together. However, it was unsettling to note how intelligently it seemed to be coordinated, and how unerringly it seemed orchestrated to compel human beings to sacrifice any real or lasting happiness for instant gratification.

The realization gelled into a sudden, startling thought. It was all completely, sinuously, like a terrible trick - the substitution of bad for good made deceptively, even irresistably attractive - and all completely opposed to any command God had ever made. I remember thinking with a touch of humour, "If anyone is controlling it, since it can't be one or even a lot of humans, it has to be the evil one. It's all a lie, it's all opposed to God, and it's a brilliant campaign of hate towards human beings."

I laughed the thought off, but I couldn't make it go away. Every time it entered my mind, it brought the corresponding thought, "If there is such a being as Christians believe, then not only is there God, but maybe God is as Christians believe too." Maybe God wasn't someone Who hated me. Maybe if one thing the Bible said was true, other things were, too. I let the thought settle, but I had just gotten a new job. Now I was distracted with an upcoming move, to South Carolina.

A tiny firm there had hired me. Just in case, I gave thanks to God in a prayer in the sanctuary at the Diocese before I left. I arrived in South Carolina and discovered myself surrounded by co-workers who were almost unanimously Southern Baptist protestants.

I was starting to suspect that God was framing me!

He was. A bunch of things happened at once. I missed my Diocesan friends and went to a Mass, just to check it out. I came away tremendously impressed with the stunningly faithful and powerful priest who delivered the homily. Then I had an argument with my Baptist supervisor that I technically won. But my popular idea, which was that "all faith is just like a light shining through different panes of stained glass, where all reflect with equal value even though the colors are different" was revealed to me as an obvious and total sham. All faiths can't be equally true - and what isn't true, isn't valuable.

Even my History major, with its underlying emphasis on analysis and critique of original sources, was beginning to seem like part of God's frame. When I actually read criticisms of the Bible's validity, I was stunned to find they were stuffed with fallacious arguments, unbelievably biased presentation of historical documents, and openly prejudicial premises.

I now believed that God both existed and wasn't my enemy, and I was becoming curiously regular at Mass. But I didn't want to be Catholic. Almost no other religion, except perhaps orthodox Judaism, is so strict.

But as a History major, I knew very well that no serious historian questions that the the community and structure founded by Jesus absolutely is the Catholic Church and no other. Furthermore, there were certain points in the New Testament relating to the doctrine of the Body and the Blood that could only be denied with serious intellectual dishonesty. Only the Catholic Church offered the trans-substantiated Host, the Body and Blood explicitly defined by Christ.

I read a stack of books taller than myself, desperately hoping to find an honest argument to refute what I was beginning to think might be true. At the same time, in my most secret moments, I hoped with more hope than I had ever felt about anything that it was true. That it might all be true! God might love me. He might have created me on purpose, out of love. My life might mean something. He might really even have done the things He said He did in His Bible... He might hear my prayers. Maybe He even knew how awful and upset I felt all the time. Maybe He cared that I was basically pretty lost.

One day a miracle happened. I had dropped my watch, a beautiful gold heirloom that had belonged to my grandmother, in the parking lot during a Carolina storm without noticing. The next day I searched all over without finding it, although I saw a river of water pouring into a sewer drain close to where I thought it might have fallen.

So I said a prayer to God. It was my first real prayer, because I had never believed before then that God would do anything to help instead of hurt me, or that He would truly be listening. My prayer went something like, "Okay God... I know You are there. I also know it was stupid of me to be so careless with my watch, and that I've been careless with it at least a million other times. But I've never lost it before, and I really want it back. You're God and You can give it back, and You say You hear our prayers. Will you give it back to me, please?"

The funny thing about prayer is how stunned you can be when it's answered. I really didn't expect God to give my watch back. That would be so definite and besides, I really had been careless. I was pretty sure it had gone right down the sewer, and I had definitely checked very carefully not only in the parking area, but in and under my car, in the bushes and in my apartment, too. I had checked once again before I prayed.

But when I opened my car door that night when I got home from work, I glanced down. My watch was right next to my foot. The car tire should have nailed it. I felt a shock run down my spine, a second time.

Some people will say it wasn't a miracle. But I think $700 gold heirloom watches don't disappear in huge rainstorms and appear again right next to your foot. Sure, an animal could have found it or maybe it got hung up under the car where I couldn't see it. But God knew about it, however it happened. He gave it back.

I could write a good bit more about many other miracles since, some very dramatic and supernatural ( like the walls of the Church in Charleston melting into light at a consecration of priests ), and some very ordinary ( like getting a job two days after a sudden move to Texas ). Or perhaps the most important miracle, my parents and family welcoming me back after repudiating me for six years due to their hostility towards Christianity and Catholicism. Or I could write about some defining moments of growth in a faith that is constantly deepening. But that all has to do with my journey after the conversion, which is really pretty much told now.

My life is very different now. I'm glad I'm alive. It's both scary and a thrill to be Catholic every day in a culture that is not only opposed but is furiously hostile towards faith, as I've found since becoming Catholic. I wouldn't trade it though. It's hard to end this narrative because faith is a story that doesn't end. I hope somewhere in here are words that will help someone in their journey.
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Sunday, June 24, 2007

I found a baby blackbird !! (How to hand feed a wild baby bird)

I don't check comments often. If you need help right away, please contact your local wildlife center.

Birds, especially baby birds, are fragile. Their bodies are fragile, their diets are fragile, and if they have an injury or a bird disorder, even if you perform like a star and try your hardest, they may not make it.

I've been astonished at how many hits this page gets, and saddened by comments of baby birds who didn't make it to flight. I know just how that feels (it feels terrible, usually with crying, dehydration and a crashing headache). But please don't blame this page. I'm sharing what I've had success with. Take freely, and if it works for you I'm really glad! If it didn't, please don't blame yourself (or me).

Baby birds are hard. Sometimes the ones that seem healthiest suddenly decline and die in a single day. Other times, the ones you were sure were going to need burial with flowers and a service in the morning are the ones that fly away healthy, free and joyful two weeks later. If you can handle that, proceed.

If not, take your bird to a rehabber right now and don't wait. Google "animal rehab" and your location. Then get in the car with your bird and drive there.

Disclosure: In many states, it is illegal to care for a baby bird yourself. These states have laws requiring you to take baby birds to a rehab facility. In my area, rehab facilities are under-funded and not trustworthy. Baby birds are a dime a dozen, and take a lot of work and resources to raise. I haven't felt good about leaving a baby bird at facilities where there are endangered snakes, owls, hawks and coyotes, and after a few vigorous baby birds just "didn't make it" after a single day, decided their chances were better with me. What you decide, is your decision. End of disclosure.

So, you found a baby bird!
After writing a post about finding and raising a baby blackbird a few summers ago, the next summer I found another and returned to my page... only to find that I hadn't really organized the information very well, or included enough to quickly get a grasp of what I needed to do!

So here is an organized page that I re-wrote to refer to myself, and I hope it will help anyone else who finds it, too. The original post is at the bottom.

Supplies you will need:
  1. Plastic syringe (the kind with no needle, about 1cm wide)
    Where to get it: Any veterinarian or some pharmacies
    (most vets will give you one for free)

    You can also get them from Amazon and they will deliver them to your door. Here's a link to a lifetime supply for under $10! If you need to, cut off the narrow tip so the food doesn't block up. I would sand the cut edge to smooth it if you do this, or in a pinch, you can rub the plastic smooth against a cutting board. Be careful not to put a sharp, cut plastic syringe edge in a baby bird's mouth.
  2. Egg
    Boil it (pierce in the bottom with a thumbtack, boil for 10 min and cool under cold water)
    Mash it up with 2-3 tsp of water into as pudding-like a substance as possible
    If you already have the Kaytee Exact Baby Bird Food, mix up about two spoonfuls separately from the egg with a few spoonfuls of hot water so it is as much like pudding as possible, and mix it with the crushed egg mixture.
    Load it up into the sryinge
  3. Kaytee Exact Handfeeding Baby Bird Food
    Where to get it: Most local pet stores
    If pet store does not have it: Amazon will deliver it to your door

  4. Shoebox with holes pierced in the top for air
    As the baby bird matures, you may need velcro to fasten the top shut so the baby does not knock the lid off by trying to get out
  5. Old t-shirt, rag or hand towel to put in the box for comfortable sleeping

Nice-to-have supplies:
  1. Soft art brush for cleaning up the bird
  2. A taller box with holes pierced all over so the baby bird can practice flying when you're not there 
  3. For seed-eating birds, birdseed
    You can grind it up into powder and add to the food mixture
    Grind it up with a hammer and a baggie, or use a cooking mortar and pestle
    Note! You will have to sift or skim off the shells, which the baby can not digest, and which will clog up the syringe.

    If you live near a Whole Foods, they have a great selection of raw seeds like sunflower and millet. I got a huge supply of several seeds and seed powders for under $5.

Panicky Questions:

I don't have any Kaytee bird mixture!
The baby bird can survive a little while on just egg and water. I haven't tried to do without the Kaytee mixture for more than a day, but I think a baby bird could go for a few days if you are adding ground up seed for seed-eaters and mashed-up insects for bug eaters.

How can I tell whether the baby eats seeds or bugs?
Search for "baby bird" on Google and see if you can match a picture with your bird. They look a lot different in different stages.

This picture is a baby blackbird. It eats seeds, bugs and berries.

If it looks like this picture below, it's a wild House Finch and eats only seeds and berries (NO bugs).

How do I feed it?
  1. Water it first. Hold up your fingertip with a drop of water. The baby bird should peck it off. If it doesn't, see below for how to drip it down a toothpick. Don't use a syringe to eject water into the bird's throat - this will probably cause the bird to choke and drown.
  2. Load up a syringe with food mixture
  3. Trap it in your hand, like in the picture above
  4. Get the syringe as far in it's mouth as it will gently go. You want it pretty much all the way down the throat, on the side closest to your LEFT hand. Baby birds can not swallow, which is why both you and their mother have to stuff the food in pretty far.
  5. If the baby bird is resisting, be extra careful that you get the syringe on the correct side of the bird's throat - your LEFT side. If you get it on the side closest to your RIGHT, that is the bird's air passage and you will be ejecting food into the bird's lungs.
  6. If the syringe just won't go into the baby bird's throat, get it as close as possible and push the plunger to eject the food into the baby bird's mouth. Then take a soft, wet art paint brush (the kind with a pointy tip), and push it the rest of the way into the throat, as deep as you can. If you leave it in the mouth, the baby bird never gets it because it can not swallow.
  7. Don't turn the bird on it's back. The bird should be upright or it could choke.
  8. After a few hours, you should be seeing poop. If you don't, see below or your bird may die.
  9. When the bird is done being stuffed with food, wet a soft art brush (flat kind, not pointy, is best for this) and gently brush away food from face, head and feathers. A damp paper towel will also do in a pinch. They like this a lot.

How do I prepare the mixture?
  1. If you have the Kaytee mixture, get a couple of spoonfuls in a small dish with a deep-ish bottom. Teacups are ideal - you want to be able to syringe it easily, and it's not easy if you use a flat-ish dish.
  2. Cut or pulverize half a boiled egg yolk and add it to the mixture.
  3. Add your ground up seeds (with shells sifted out), ground up berries, and/or ground up bugs.
  4. Add small amounts of warm water until it's about like pudding - not chunky, but not runny. 
  5. If you have plenty of mixture left, put it in the fridge. But at feeding time, it has to be warm or the baby will not like it. When it's time to feed again, put 3 inches of water in a pan and set the teacup in the pan - when the pan's water boils, immediately take the teacup out and stir the mixture well. The food should be warm (room temperature is ok too), but not hot. I test it with my finger tip. If you don't leave the food out, the food will stay good for about two days. If you leave it out, it lasts for about one day. (If it starts to smell bad, don't feed it to your bird! It has bacteria in it, and your bird may die!)
  6. NEVER microwave the mixture. It creates hot pockets, and can burn the baby bird's insides when you syringe it in.

The syringe is sticking and won't move!
Get a drop of olive oil and drip it in. Work it around until it un-sticks. In a pinch, use soft or melted butter or a little bit of mayo.

Should I put the baby bird back?
  • If you can get to the nest and the mother is still taking care of other baby birds in it, and you are sure it is the right nest (the right kind of bird and the bird's actual mother, not a different mother of the same kind), YES. Go put it back! It is not true that the mother can smell you and will reject it. If the baby bird falls out again, it's not because the mother rejected it, it is because whatever caused it to fall the first time (it was too active, nest was too small, or it tripped), caused it to fall a second time too. If you are not sure you can get it to the nest, or you are not sure it is the right nest (if you put it in the wrong nest with older birds, it could be suffocated under them, or in the wrong nest with younger birds, it may weigh too much not to suffocate them), proceed down this list.
  • If you know for sure that the mother is dead, or you have no idea where she or the nest is is, NO. It's up to you.
  • If it can't fly up but only drifts down while fluttering, NO. It can not escape a predator.
  • If it can fly up, and you are sure it can fly competently, MAYBE. Some baby birds can fly on their own before they can eat on their own. I would keep it overnight with some seeds and/or bugs and see if it can really eat. If it can't, I'd proceed with feeding.

How often will it need food and water?
It depends. A very young bird with mostly fluff instead of feathers and a soft, frowny "baby beak" that isn't yet hard enough to break a seed probably needs feeding every two hours during the day, but once it's dark its parents wouldn't be able to feed it and you don't have to, either. However, within about two hours after sunrise,  it will be very hungry, and just like its parents, you should be giving it something to eat! If your bird is at this stage, it probably also needs to have its box on a heating pad, turned on medium. With my heating pad, which I got from a drug store, the "High" setting gets too hot. You should also make sure the pad does NOT have the safety feature that turns the pad off after two hours. A cold baby bird can not digest, and will die whether or not you are feeding it. It should not feel cold in your hand, or it is too cold. It should be about the same temperature as your hand.

My birds have all been as you see in the pictures - they still have the little "baby fringe" around their heads just like Bela Lugosi, but they are no longer "naked" and can hop. During this stage, they can be fed less: three times a day is my minimum. I work full-time, so to give you an idea, I feed and water the bird in the morning and work all day. Sometimes I come home as late as 12 hours later, and feed again, then wait 2 hours and feed once more before bed. Generally speaking, 3 times is good and 4 is better.

Most baby birds are aggressive about asking for food when they are hungry. If you have a bird that is chirping or squawking aggressively for food, don't go by a time estimate for how much it "should" need from anyone - me included - it's hungry! So load up a syringe and feed it!

As a last remark, make sure you are giving proper nutrition. Baby blackbirds of all ages need ground seed, ground fruit, and some form of ground protein - either ground boiled egg or ground insects depending on the age of the bird. (Baby house finches need the same, only no bugs.) None of these ingredients are nutritious enough alone, and even if you are including earthworms, they are not very nutritious. Mealworms are better, and mealworms plus moths and beetles are best - yes, you have to grind them, and yes, it's gross. The Kaytee mixture provides some, but not all of the nutrients needed. You must give the baby bird full nutrition or it will starve even though you are feeding it.

How long will it take before I can let it go?
It depends on how old it was when you started. It has to be able to eat, drink and fly up on its own. The baby blackbird below, took a week. The baby house finch, above, took four weeks.

It won't open it's beak!
If you know it hasn't eaten for several hours, tap on the side of it's beak with the syringe. If it still won't open, you have to get ready to use some extra skill. (If it was fed less than 2 hours ago, it may just not be hungry yet.)
  1. get a toothpick and slightly blunt the tip
  2. gently wedge the baby bird's beak open with the toothpick and leave the toothpick in place
  3. use your finger to drip water down the toothpick and into the beak
  4. gently wedge the syringe into the baby bird's mouth next to the toothpick
  5. now it gets tricky - you have to get the toothpick out of the way without dislodging the syringe. If another person is nearby, ask for help. If not, my strategy was to gently wiggle the syringe while it was halfway in the bird's mouth, and gradually get the toothpick to fall away.

I don't see poop, or there was poop before, but now, nada.
Baby birds don't have a lot of muscle development. Your bird may be so young, it has not developed the muscles it needs to poop properly. Do this...
  1. Check it's underside - if there is a lump of dried poop there, it could be clogging up the pooper. 
  2. Keeping the bird trapped in your hand, rinse the area gently with warm water until there is no visible poop. You can also gently brush away the old poop with a wet art brush (but, don't use the same brush you use to feed or water the bird). A paper towel soaked in warm water also helps.
  3. If you see that it's lower tummy is discolored or swollen, the poop is clogged. Point the bird so it is over the sink - you don't want the next step to result in poop shooting out onto your cocktail dress or favorite black jacket.
  4. Gently stroke the area downwards with your finger. You are being the muscles the baby bird has not yet developed. Poop should come out. 

My baby bird is panting with his beak open. What's wrong?
He is stressed and can die unless you remove him from all stimulation immediately. If I see a baby bird do this, I put him back in his box right then, close the lid, and put him in a dark, quiet room with the door closed for at least an hour. Birds in this condition have died in my hand. Don't mess around. Get him away from all stimulation in a safe, quiet, dark place as quickly as possible.

My baby bird is getting weaker and weaker. I'm doing everything. What's wrong?
  • Is the bird pooping? If not, see "I don't see poop". If you're sure there's poop, see the next possible answer.
  • Have you been giving the bird water? Leaving a dish of water near the bird is not enough for very young baby birds. Give it water from your fingertip, or see above for how to water if it won't open it's beak.
  • Has it been eating less? After a certain point, if you've been feeding Kaytee mixture only, or Kaytee mixture and eggs, the bird needs ground seeds or ground bugs. The baby blackbird (below) lost all her weight over two days, and only gained it back and resumed growing and being healthy after a lot of bugs were added to the mixture.
  • Does the bird have scratches or wounds? If it was bitten by an animal before you found it, it may have developed an infection. Cross your fingers because this is really tough for little birds and they don't usually survive infections. They just don't have enough of a working system yet to fight it.

I'm pretty sure my baby bird is a raptor (hawk, eaglet, falcon, or some other big thing like a crow). What should I do?
Wow !!  I've always wanted to find one of those. Before you do anything, secure it away from children and pets. Sharp claws and beak can slice skin, and you will want to have heavy gloves handy if you are really going to take this on. I don't know how to take care of one of these, so keep hunting around on the web. Good luck!

Should I take it to a wildlife rescue?
I wouldn't. No rescue agency has ever saved a bird I brought them, and some people (including me) have had a bad feeling as they left some agency that had injured snakes or baby raptors that might conveniently be fed a weak baby bird. Baby birds are a dime a dozen, but they take a lot of effort to help. I don't think agencies want them and I do suspect they often are just fed to other animals that are likely to be considered more important.

The baby bird died. Am I a total failure?
No. My success rate is only 50%.

Does it's mama care?
My House Finch cheeped near an open window and his mama appeared instantly. She was beside herself and both of them had a passionate conversation along the lines of "You get your butt back in the nest!!!" and, "I can't - this HORRIBLE MONSTER has trapped me!" Neither one realized that the baby could not fly back to the nest, and the mother could not lift him there. I could not put him there, either. It was 5 yards straight up. She was all over the windowsill and the porch several times, talking to her baby. What a great mama. Even his daddy was checking in from the fence across from the windowsill, or from the tree by the porch. It was pretty amazing.

Should I worry about mites?
I don't. If you see mites, don't try to clean the bird. Baby birds easily frighten and die if they are overstimulated, especially in the first 24 hours. Just get them when they are off of the bird. I dampen a paper towel, rub some olive oil onto it, and swipe wherever I see mites. Oil of any kind suffocates them almost immediately.

Good luck to all baby bird rescuers from me. The original post, below, has the story of my first bird and a few helpful pictures. Best wishes for your baby bird!


This is the original post. The information above was organized and added later, when I found my second baby black bird and then even more birds. There is some useful information in it, but the above information is easier to read for quick answers if you have come to this page for help with a baby bird of your own.

I found a baby bird at the barn where my horse is stabled ! It was sitting on a shovel and I might have left it there, only a baby chickadee had died in the atrium area of my workplace after being abandoned by the rest of its family. It hadn't been strong enough to fly out and it cried all day. That night it actually hopped into the office out of desperation. It was gently replaced by a well-meaning person... but then died of hunger the next day. I was still upset about it.

The bird I found had been sitting on the shovel for two hours, and no other bird came near it... but a cat walked right by without seeing it, and that's when I made my mind up to grab it. It let out an enormously loud shriek considering it's tiny size ! All of the horses jumped around and snorted in their stalls, and I truly felt like an awful person. But my grabbing it was not at all the worst thing to happen to the baby bird, although it thought it was. The worst thing that could ever have happened to it had already happened - it became separated from its parents.

I took it home in a paper bag and found out it was a baby blackbird. It was totally adorable. Here is a picture:

baby blackbird

I found several sites on the web that gave me good information about what to feed it. The best site by far was this one, which told me to boil an egg and feed little parts to the bird.

My bird was really excited about this. Because it was brown and snuggled into my hand so contentedly when done, I started to think it was female. She liked the boiled egg a lot - this makes sense, since egg white and yolk are created as nutrition for an incubating chick while it is still in its shell.

When I told one of my co-workers about this, he said, "Isn't that cannibalism or something?" I explained about the white and the yolk, and that it's only cannibalism if the egg is fertilized - then it would be a growing baby bird, instead of just protein and nutrients. He made a horrified face and said, "Oh, let's not go there!" He meant, let's not consider that if a fertilized bird egg counts as a real bird, a fertilized human egg might also count as a real human. I like Allen, who is gay, very much, but this made me see how eager people are to stay blind to obvious truths especially if examining them could lead to some inconvenient conclusions.

Anyway, the next day I also got my bird some baby bird mixture at PetCo. I mixed this with the boiled egg with good results.

WARNING ! If you use the baby bird mixture ("Exact" hand feeding mixture by Kaytee), read the instructions! They have important information. For instance, microwaving the mixture can create hot pockets in the mixture, which will burn a baby bird's mouth and throat.

I saw that my baby bird had a pre-digestion area in her throat. Here is a picture. Whatever she couldn't really digest yet, got sent back out from here. For instance, she couldn't eat raisins no matter how much I mixed them up. For the first few days, blackberries got sent back too.

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To feed her, I basically trapped her in my hand and used a plastic syringe full of boiled egg mixed with the Kaytee mixture to get the food into her throat. Baby birds don't know how to swallow at first - that is why the food has to be stuffed in as far as possible. They don't mind, and will let you know when they're done. When there was food in her mouth, I used a soft art paint brush to push it down and if I was in a hurry I used my finger, which also worked although possibly nothing at all has ever made me feel so barbaric as using my finger to literally stuff food down the throat of a baby bird. I also used a soft art brush to clean her up afterwards, and she really liked that.

She needed feeding at least three times a day, and I came home at lunch to feed her. She needed water too, which she took in drops from my fingers. She was so aggressive about asking for food, but when she was only thirsty, she was very polite and made sweet, musical sounds that were very gracious and pretty.

After about the fourth day, she wasn't excited any more about boiled egg and mixture, and she started losing weight. But she still couldn't really fly! So I did something I never imagined - drove over to my parents and collected a really sterling selection of slugs, pillar bugs, beetles and raspberries, squashed them all up into a nauseating but nutritious mixture, and fed them to her with the syringe. I even fed her a spider that I found in a corner of my townhouse. It was so gross !! But also so satisfying to see her get her appetite back and weigh something again.

Here is a picture of the supplies:
baby bird feeding supplies

I knew it was important that she learn to use her wings and get strong, so she wouldn't get trapped like the little atrium bird had. We did a lot of flying exercises. After dinner, she would sit on my fingers and I would lift my hand and drop it - like the Drop Zone at Great America. This forced her to flutter to keep her balance. I also lifted my arm way high and then moved it way low, so she had to cling at steep up and down angles. We did back-and-forth like a branch in the wind, and around in circles just for fun. She got very good at all of these and when she finally went outdoors, she could cling to the vertical corner of a stucco building - something I've never seen any other bird do.

I had her for about a week. Here is a picture of her right before I let her go - you can see she's lost her punk-rock fluff:

baby blackbird

I knew it was time to let her go when I came home from work one night and she had jumped up and down in her box so energetically that she knocked the top off and flew up to the curtain rod.

She stayed outside that night in a little orange tree on my porch, and flew away in the morning. I saw her flying around with another bird, and she landed on my roof as I was about to go to work. I really wanted to get a good breakfast in her for starting her new life of freedom, and I asked her to come down. She tried to, but she just didn't have the confidence yet to fly at such a steep angle through tree branches. Some smaller birds took a friendly interest in her, and I saw her tasting different things to see if she could eat them - a leaf, a twig, an orange blossom. I had to leave for work, and I haven't seen her since.

I hope she's okay. I feel really privileged that I got to be so familiar with something so small, gentle and wild. How many people get to hold and feed a baby bird, or help it practice flying? Not many. I miss my baby bird and think about her often. I've never thought about putting up a bird feeder before, but now I've put one up for other birds, so they don't have to worry about finding enough food. Now whenever I see a little female blackbird, I'll always wonder if she could be my blackbird. I do think I hear her sometimes, but I can never be sure. I pay more attention to birds now. It was a really special experience.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bizarre weird messages I get on MySpace

There have been some that lift my eyebrows, there have been some that make them do that perplexed expression thing, and then there are the ones that are so strange, you have to wonder if your friends are hoaxing you. Unfortunately, in the back of your mind, you feel pretty sure that your friends would do a better job at it. These messages are so ultimately, so critically disfunctional, they have to be genuine.

I truly regret I've only started with this one. Others have completely dropped out of my inbox on MySpace or been deleted. But from now on, I'll be diligent, yes, a diligent steward, recording these snapshots of the MySpace FantasyLand mentality.

From Haris (charming picture of a dark haired guy with nice build) titled "hello beauty" (who wouldn't read something that starts with such a nice compliment?) :

Hello sweety woman how are u doing there and how is everything going aswell....actually i saw ur pics in ur profile so i was so thrilled and also really wanna get to know u better cos u are a woman and kind of person am seeking for here if u would love to know me better here is my yahoo so u add me to ur list then we can talk better on is a lil word about me am a engineering construction company so i have a son his name is johnson since his mum died have been the one taking care of him cos his a son i so much love and care for so i here by looking for someone that can love me and my son forever ok and i know that its u already cos u looks responsible ok....take care...hope to hear from u soon

My comment: Whoa.


Along the same lines:

i was searching for my heart angel and my soulmate when i saw your ravishing look and wonderful smile on your photo,which really swept me off my feet and i was so impressed,that made me drop you this few words of mine,.i would love to know you more better than i have already read of you from your profile,and also would love to have a some chat with you on yahoo instant messanger or pls try and add me so that we can talk things out more better.., because i ve never been so certain of a woman b4 and i want yoiu to know I got this feelings that you are exactly all i am looking for in a woman and just cant wait to read a reply of this note from you. Pls Kindly get back to me........ am onlline for you now steve....


Okay, now I realize VERY FEW messages on MySpace are NOT weird. This one is the last I'll post, unless there is a significant jump in the level of communication strangeness.

The following is an exchange with Ken (very handsome picture of a man who looks like a stockbroker or possibly a model):

--- his initial message ---

From: Ken
Date: May 4, 2007 12:21 PM
how are you

--- from me, in reply ---

From: (me)
Date: May 5, 2007 12:32 PM

Hi Ken,
Very good, thank you. How are you?

You have a very handsome smile. Your profile doesn't say very much about you, though. What is your life like in New York?

Have a good weekend,

--- his bizarre, weird reply ---

Thank you pretty, am so happy to hear from you, well i will love to hear from you pretty that is like to chat with you pretty, dear come to think about it you so pretty i cant imagin how it will be being with you cos you look like an angel.Dear i will like you to add me to your chat id, angel this is mine

Here is the best message ever, from a really cute guy named Nick.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Shopping is the American Sedative

Yesterday was Saturday, the first beautiful day here (Bay Area, California) in some weeks. I went to Valley Fair, for at least a decade the largest upscale shopping center in the metro area. I wanted to go to Macy's furniture store, which is only at larger Macy's stores, and though I loathe Valley Fair for an assortment of reasons, the closest furniture Macy's was here. I need furniture because I sold all of mine when I moved from SC, but now I am finally settled and I want a place to sit besides my bed.

This is about my experience.

In Macy's, downstairs on the way to furniture: A man in his 30's is literally loading up a cart with painted plateware. He has a stack of dinner plates, a stack of bowls, a stack of dessert plates. At the register he tells the cashier, "I'm finishing out our wedding set." It's about two thousand dollars worth of plates. I know exactly two people who have ever had more than 10 guests at one time for dinner, and one of them is me. Seeing this man spending so much money on plates because he and his bride have an "unfinished" set makes me feel uneasy.

In the furniture department: I step off the escalator into mattresses. A boy, perhaps 12 years old, is collapsed with his sister and brother on a mattress set. He is saying, over and over again, "This is eighteen thousand dollars. This is an eighteen thousand dollar set of mattresses. I can not believe mattresses can cost this much. Eighteen thousand dollars!" I look at the tag. He's not kidding - and it's on sale. The regular price is $25,000 for a king set. "Can you believe it?" He asks me. "I hope you're comfortable," I respond. "Oh, I like it a LOT!" he grins. I walk on, trying not to wonder how much he'll spend on a mattress when he grows up.

In the back of the furniture department: A saleslady is on the phone, but her voice carries. "Oh no. How awful - I never expected. How awful! Dear - I don't want you to call me. I just want you to be okay. What a terrible, terrible thing. What are you going to..." My uneasiness increases.

Escape from Macy's, into the mall traffic: The vendors in the aisles have to be extremely aggressive, because there are so many of them. On my return here from the midwestern U.S., I was trapped by vendor after vendor because I did not know how to be rude enough to completely ignore them. If you make eye contact, they will actually grab your hand and start rubbing lotion onto it. Accidentally, I make eye contact with a vendor. "Hello, can I ask you a question?" She says immediately, taking a step forward. I shake my head, break eye contact and walk on. "I just want to ask you a question!" She calls after me angrily. "Can I ask you a question?" This is disturbing too.

Banana Republic: A boy walks in with a girl at the same time I do. They are, to say the least, a striking couple. He is tall, caucasian, pale, with soft features and shoulder-length black hair, wearing all black. He looks unbelievably bored or maybe stoned. She is black, two feet shorter than he and very petite but dressed in a way that puts an unfortunate idea into my head. My head did not want to have that idea. Everything she is wearing is bright pink, including short-short cutoffs and unbelievably high heels. Neither one smiles. Neither one speaks to the other. My sense of uneasiness rises, but I can't define it.

Nordstrom: I forget - do they have furniture or not? I walk by case after case, display after display of earrings - dripping with jewels, reflected in mirror after mirror. Everything sparkles. But I don't like it and I want to leave now. The tables on the way out are stacked, stacked, with cashmere scarves. There are not just one or two in each of seven colors. There are about thirty times seven scarves on display. Table after table on the way out is laden with an unbelievable quantity of one product after another. I feel awful, like I've eaten something bad. I think I was getting close to having some kind of anxiety attack.

Epiphany at SonyStore: There is a huge HDTV screen in the window. It's looping scenes. Box after box opens to reveal pair after pair of gorgeous shoes. Dessert after beautiful dessert appears on the screen. Glass after glass of champagne is filled - a tower, overflowing with champagne. It's a movie, I realize when Kirstin Dunst appears, one I haven't seen: Marie Antoinette. Strangely effeminate men prance in, carrying one exquisite thing after another... box after box of shoes. Dessert after beautiful dessert, consumed one after the other, the images so insistently repetitive that finally they all seem the same. Even the dog is tired of dessert, but eats it anyway.

But Marie Antoinette was beheaded. Did the movie show that? Or what about the Princess de Lamballe, her best friend who was literally slaughtered by the mob, her head and body parts carried on a pike into the streets, when the mob came for Marie?

Who at Sony picked this to show? Someone at the corporate marketing offices, or someone in that particular store? Did they pick it with any sense of irony, of intelligent commentary on the environment in which it was displaying? Marie knocks over a glass after glass of champagne onto a table of cards and I think, "House of cards."

Box after box of shoes... dessert after dessert... glass after glass of champagne...

This was the moment I suddenly was able to put the growing anxiety and uneasiness into words. Valley Fair mall anesthetizes people. It's a sedative. Shopping is a sedative. No one can think in this environment. You're not supposed to think, either. Just buy.

I walked by Juicy Couture on my way out of the mall.

Juicy Couture: "Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy. Eat Candy..."
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