A robin flew into the window of my office last week. Because the window was closed, what the bird thought was a clean shot to another tree was actually just a reflection of the tree in which it was already perched.
The window is only an arm’s length from my desk. I heard the strike and caught a glimpse of the bird.
I went outside and rescued the robin — I dubbed him Smack — before a cat or a dog got him. He was alive but suffering from a major concussion. When he came to his senses, he seemed deeply confused.
Having been in that same condition throughout much of my life, I took care of Smack for the hour he required to learn to fly again. I held him while he twitched, fluttered and made clumsy stabs at my fingers with his beak.
Smack eventually felt well enough to fly away without so much as a thank you. I don’t mind. For him, it’s a full-time job just watching out for windows.
My yard contains feeders and fruit trees (cherry, plum, peach) that attract robins, house finches, yellow warblers, dark-eyed juncos, flickers, chickadees and the occasional annoying European starling and dove.
If honesty enters into this, I’d just as soon off the starlings the way I do the mice the scattered birdseed attracts. But I’ve come to accept that starlings are part of the equation. It helps that shooting within city limits is against the law, and I’ve already been repeatedly warned.
My love of birds occurred 30-plus years ago, when I hit an owl with a police car. It was technically the owl’s fault. It was flying in my lane. I managed to catch a glimpse of the bird as it realized what was happening.
The owl lifted itself just high enough to clip the light bar on the roof, tumble down the back window, and flop on the road.
Because it was 3 a.m. and I was bored, I handled the collision like any other accident report. I turned on the lights, put out orange cones, lit a couple of flares, and diagramed the scene. The owl, meanwhile, remained motionless in the roadway.
It was only when I started to cover the corpse with an emergency blanket that I realized the owl was still alive. So I picked it up.
Note: Picking up a pissed-off owl is nowhere remotely similar to picking up an addled robin. Yeah, they both have feathers, but I’ll leave it to you as to which one will scar you for life.
After some screaming, I managed to get the owl to perch on a guardrail. I gathered up my investigation and departed to a safe distance for medical treatment.
During the rest of the shift, I drove by to check on my victim/assailant. The owl was still there the first couple of times, and then it wasn’t. I stopped to make sure that it hadn’t just fallen over dead, but it was gone. Back to killing rodents.
By the way, I actually turned in the auto-owl accident report. The watch commander scrawled “nice try, smart a--” and crammed it into my report slot.
If anything positive has come from the coronavirus, it’s that I have reacquired the simple joy of sitting in my backyard and watching the birds loot our trees, knowing that life will go on even if we don’t.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.