Time is a slippery concept during pandemics. February and March feel like years ago, not months. Turns out, pinpointing fledging dates is tricky, too. The week or more I figured we had until the white-rumped shama chicks fledged turned out to be two days.
I saw a little bird out of the corner of my eye while I sat at my desk. Earlier in the day, I’d seen chickens with tiny day-old chicks, so some part of my brain regifted this little one as a chick of that variety. Then, some other part of my brain registered that the chick was all alone. There were no other chicks nearby. More importantly, no mama chicken, and when chicks are that young, they stick pretty close to mama chicken.
But maybe it was lost. A wayward chicken chick. That happens. Eric rescued five that way before, they imprinted on him, and turned into laying hens for us. One lived close to seven years.
I ran to my car in the garage right as Eric walked inside, returning home from work. “Get out of my way,” I said and may have pushed him aside. I grabbed my binoculars from the car, raced back to my desk, and, lo, the little bird I saw was a shama fledgling. (No, really, I didn’t push Eric aside, and, in fact, I said, “We have a fledgling” with a fair amount of excitement.)
It’s been two hours. In that time, the fledgling has hop-flapped in all directions in five-foot bursts but has staying right outside my office window. Its parents, meanwhile, have been calling the whole time. They take turns flying to it and then flying a short distance away, as if demonstrating how it’s done. At one time, papa landed within a few feet from the fledgling with a snack in his beak. The fledgling didn’t budge. Finally, papa flew to it and dropped whatever morsel he was carrying in the chick’s gaping mouth. A few minutes later, mama did the same thing.
Then a chicken with four tiny chicks cruised by, and the papa shama let loose with a harsh series of tshaks. Mama chicken paused, gave him a look, and slowly moved on with her brood.
My admiration for white-rumped shama parents is growing exponentially. They’ve worked hard today, feeding and encouraging their young one to gain the courage and gumption to flap its tiny wings. Their commitment is real–and there’s still another chick or two still in the nest. They’ve got stamina. They’re calling as I type this. I imagine they’re saying, “Fly, fledgling, fly. Be the bird that you are.”
Or, “You ungrateful kid. Do I have to do everything for you?” Parents are allowed to have moments of exasperation every now and then.
It’s fun and exhausting, even for me. Also, distracting. Expect more pictures.
Hawaii’s statewide case count grew by one today to 621. We remain at 21 on Kauai. Some loosening of restrictions occurred today. Golf courses re-opened. More hiking trails in state parks have opened. The University of Hawaii announced they would return to in-person instruction with the fall semester.