The Ballad of Birdy Bum

Dear ones, I have been distracted by the looming mass unemployment of the House of Glass, which will be tempered by the possible migration of the House of Glass onto a type of ludicrous-yet-adorable vessel called an English narrowboat. So since March 12, the last post here, I have:

  • had a bank-holiday canal boat trip to see if we turned out to be allergic to boats, and faced the remarkable store of characters and landscapes that England keeps in its back pockets for these occasions. There were gongoozlers and attack swans and madmen and magical locks and bridges that swung open and stopped traffic with a secret key, and early mists and dappled sun and cold mornings with hot tea and ducklings, landscapes like Narnia, like the Shire, like Wind in the Willows and Watership Down and Harry Potter. I covered myself in grease and glory and spent most of the time half-terrified wishing we had packed alcohol. I am sure that I almost lost Dr Glass and the 50-foot steel narrowboat to a vicious attack lock which tried to hold them underwater, and I certainly almost killed myself pulling them off the cill, which proves that I am either wildly exaggerating the danger or actually capable of superhuman feats of strength under duress.
  • gone to Crick Boat Show to see if we proved to be allergic to boats upon closer inspection.
  • performed stand-up comedy in the name of Science, doing a Science Showoff double act with the clever and interesting Emily.
  • stopped biting/peeling my nails, breaking the habit of a lifetime, becoming an instant devotee of fine manicures and nail polish.
  • gone on job interviews, as our funding sources are drying up. got shot down. picked selves back up, dusted selves off, and started looking at slightly smaller boats.
  • had my first first-author paper come out.
  • had a different bank holiday in the South of France, clambered over Carcassonne, hiked the giddy crumbling heights of Peyrepeteuse, and saw the vines, the golden fields, the Mountain at the End of the World. Dr Glass does not do French, and I remain obtusely American. At one point, while purchasing groceries, I realized that everybody else had brought their own bags. Madam, I addressed the clerk, forgetting the word for “bag,” Have you a box – but a box that is not a box? She answered, as graciously as possible: A bag, you mean? I said, Yes, Madam, thank you, a bag, we will have two. And then I immediately forgot the word for “bag,” and can only remember a-box-that-is-not-a-box. Hopefully it will not come up again.

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And we just came back from a weekend spent viewing some narrowboats with an eye to purchase, which will underline how star-stoppingly unreal our lives have gotten.

So now that we have piled up the Excuses Not to Blog, here is a guest post on Captain Awkward for you to read, and the Ballad of Birdy Bum.

The Ballad of Birdy Bum

Walking to work this morning, I saw this on the sidewalk. This is a baby birdy bum sticking out into the street. He has stuffed his tiny head into this tiny hole in the stone wall.

Walking to work this morning, I saw this on the sidewalk. This is a baby birdy bum sticking out into the street. He has stuffed his tiny head into this tiny hole in the stone wall.

I was immediately overcome with sympathy and empathy. This baby birdy bum has a big problem. He has fallen from the nest onto a busy Bristol street. He is about the size of a large date, he is the most vulnerable thing in the world, his situation is far beyond his skills or abilities to cope with, and he has no friends or family to help him. His solution to this problem is to scope out the gigantic stone wall separating himself from safety, and to stuff his head into a tiny hole in it. THERE, FIXED NOW. WE CAN'T SEE HIM. SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL

I was immediately overcome with sympathy and empathy. This baby birdy bum has a big problem. He has fallen from the nest onto a busy Bristol street. He is about the size of a large date, he is the most vulnerable thing in the world, his situation is far beyond his skills or abilities to cope with, and he has no friends or family to help him. His solution to this problem is to scope out the gigantic stone wall separating himself from safety, and to stuff his head into a tiny hole in it. THERE, FIXED NOW. WE CAN’T SEE HIM. SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL

 

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I know those feels, baby birdy bum. You are like a symbolic representation of the Millenial Generation. I am so sorry about all this.

birdy4


We’ve all been here, haven’t we? We laugh at him, sure, but we can’t really judge.

It’s a common misconception that if you touch a baby bird, the parents will not take it back because THEY SMELL THE TAINT OF HUMAN HANDS ON ITS FEATHERS. If you think about this for more than five seconds, you’ll realize how stupid this is – the actual reason that you shouldn’t handle a baby bird is because you will injure it, possibly fatally. Do NOT pick up, grab, squeeze, grip, pinch or drag a baby bird. I would not do this, and am confident enough in my small-animal-handling skills that I can give a baby mouse a manicure, pedicure and attractive ear piercing before it realizes I’ve picked it up. Think of the damage you can do to a tasty barbecue chicken wing, then look at birdy bum’s little body and how crushable it is! So: you can rescue a baby bird, just don’t close your fingers over it.

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You CAN give it a little nudge with your finger to get its attention (AWW LOOK AT THE LITTLE FACE) and encourage it to hop aboard a leaf elevator. You can lie to the little bird and tell it that this is a magic elevator, if it is still very young.

 This bird was young enough to believe that the leaf elevator was indeed magical. The correct thing to do with a healthy, nearly-grown nestling like this is to place it in a high place, where the parents will find it. You can also pretend you are sending them to Hogwarts.


This bird was young enough to believe that the leaf elevator was indeed magical.
The correct thing to do with a healthy, nearly-grown nestling like this is to place it in a high place, where the parents will find it. You can also pretend you are sending them to Hogwarts.

birdy6

Baby birdy bum rescued! ResCUTE? He promptly hid his face behind a leaf, which works better than the hole idea, since the leaves are actually big enough to hide him. Anyway, he should be fine here – and if he isn’t, it’s all part of the Great Circle of Life.
It is tempting to think that it would be cute to collect and raise the birdy bum if his parents don’t find him, but he would probably die more quickly in our care.
The moral of the story is to give things the help they need, not always the help you want to give.
Here ends the ballad of birdy bum.

 

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16 thoughts on “The Ballad of Birdy Bum

  1. Wow. You are the kind of person who knows how to save a small bird (or at the very least assist one). It’s no real surprise, given how awesome we already know you to be, but it does perplex me that the awesomeness of some people apparently knows no bounds. How did you get to be so great, Elodie?

  2. Oh my, you have been busy! Also, how jealous am I that you’ve visited Carcassonne? You know there is an amazing board game of the same name, yes? It has princesses and peasants and dragons! Highly recommend. :)

    I too am in the process of stopping biting my nails. Doesn’t it feel great to look at shiny nails painted pretty colours that are no longer stubs?

    In more serious news, best of luck in the job hunting, getting rejected sucks balls.

    Regarding narrow boats, my Dad has been living on one for nearly two years now. It has been interesting. If you are seriously considering it long term, double glazing and central heating that works is a must. Dad had ice on the INSIDES of his windows for months this winter, and there was a 10-15 degrees C temperature gradient from the floor to the ceiling. I would also recommend checking that the water tank is new-ish and well lined. There are also rules regarding how long you can stay in a place, unless you get a residential permit, which I believe are mightily expensive.

    Don’t let this put you off however! The wood stove is amazeballs – yay fire! Locks are fun and the pace of life is much slower. And if you’re not in some grotty part of London, the countryside is beautiful. Spend as much as you can afford to and get a well maintained one and you should be all right. :)

    Oh and finally, congrats on getting your first first-name paper! *is well chuffed*

    • NESSIE I HEART YOU.

      We did not play Carcassonne in Carcassonne, and still regret that. Dr Glass keeps the Carcassonne in a plastic container that he has carried all over the world.

      I love that your dad lives on a narrowboat, and thanks for the special tips! It’s great to hear about people who are actually doing it. Thankfully, we have some connections within the community, so hopefully we won’t be making any DEEPLY stupid mistakes – just normal-stupid ones…? Anyway, the temperature gradient is fascinating, and nobody had mentioned that yet, so: EXCITING EVIDENCE.

      The nails are weird, I’ve gotta say. So far I’ve found that a combination of replacement behaviors (tearing up paper or playing with my wedding ring) visual cues (bright, noticeable nail polish) and aversion training at the very beginning (with that nasty-tasting chemical stuff) have worked very well. I was surprised that I couldn’t find any reliable information about how to actually quit biting nails – the quitting program offered was pretty much “stop biting your nails.” Most people don’t seem to realize that for me it was an unconscious, self-soothing nervous habit, not something I did for 20 years because I really liked hearing people tell me that my hands were gross. Like, I am still pissed off about the fact that when I submitted a picture of a rescued baby flying squirrel to CuteOverload, someone felt the need to reply “The squirrel is cute, [Elodie’s] chewed-off nails are not.” STILL PISSED OFF ABOUT THAT. DISPROPORTIONATELY PISSED OFF. I HAVE CARRIED THIS GRUDGE FOR FIVE YEARS AND TEN DAYS. In the intervening years, I have forgiven a thousand terrible things, but I have not forgiven that.

      But so far I’ve found that keeping them perfectly painted – with no flaws that I can notice and start picking at – has worked, although it is really freaky to see the tissue-that-used-to-be-fingertip being converted into nailbed.

      FREAKY HANDS

      • *LOVE*

        The tragedy (god, I cannot spell that word!) of not playing Carcassonne in Carcassonne. That would’ve made for some awesome photos.

        Ahh, connections in the community should make all the difference. Dad jumped in blind after quitting his job on mental health grounds, using his leaving gift to fund the boat purchase and living costs for over a year. As for the temperature gradient, I believe it is due to lack of good insulation, single glazed windows and having the log burner as his sole heat source. His boat had central heating when he bought it and it worked once, then promptly refused to work again, for no discernible reason.

        My, what helpful advice – “quit biting your nails” – if I knew how to I would’ve by now! And yes to the nervous self-soothing habits. I have several of them, the nail biting and the thumb sucking being the most obvious. However, I figure they don’t do anyone else any harm, so what the hell. The nail biting I’ve decided to stop because it hurts. What’s taken me the longest to get used to is the feeling of actually having nails! And I’ve found that one of the things that makes me want to chew a nail off is if the edge is rough or sharp. I can’t just cut my nails if I don’t have a file handy else I chew them back. Favourite new blog on nails is the Reluctant Femme. Nail art and geek feminism ftw. Also, how rude of that person! The squirrel and the snake are too cute, why should your nails matter?

        Oo yeah, nailbed reclamation. I can still see a faint line marking how far back I used to strip my nails. I really should post pictures and advice, given that I have more to say than will fit into one paragraph!

  3. *waves* I’ve read your blog for a little bit (found you via Captain Awkward!) and I just thought I’d chime in to say that the French word for bag is un sac, like a sack! ;) Just in case you need it again.

    (I lived in France as a teenager thanks to my dad’s job, but I too am rather thoroughly American and not sure I could go back indefinitely. Visits are good, for food, scenery, cheese, and wine.)

    Good luck on your job hunt; I’m on one of my own at the moment. And congratulations on your first first author paper!

  4. *waves* I’ve been a bit of a lurker around here, discovered you through Captain Awkward and I think you have a lovely blog. Your adventures in France remind me of my own time living there as a teenager, when I had to do many things like ask for “boxes that aren’t boxes” because the more precise word escaped me. Incidentally, the French word for bag is un sac (like a sack!) in case you ever need it again. ;)

    Congratulations on your first first author paper, and good luck on your job hunt. (I’ve been on one myself for a while now…it can be rough out there.)

  5. Aw! Baby birdy bum is adorable. It’s awesome that you knew exactly how to rescue it! (Potential massive damage asside, can adult birds even smell well enough to know a baby bird has been touched?)

    • Birds are not 100% my thing, so everyone is welcome to correct me, but I believe that songbirds can smell reasonably well. Here is a paper that seems to indicate that if you cover a baby roller-bird with its own fear-vomit, the parents will be like “Well, fuck me” and will “delay entering the nest.” But I imagine it would be exhausting if city birds got uppity about touching things that smell like humans.

  6. Elodie, it’s great to have you back! (And has it really been March when you last posted something? Tempus fugit, indeed.) Also, your CA post shows your usual awesomeness and I kinda want virus plushies now. All of them.

    I’m super sorry about the unemployment and simultaneously fascinated by the venture of living on a boat (and what beautiful things these narrowboats are – I have never heard of them before but Google Images shows me truly magnificent pictures). I’m wishing you all the luck with your job hunting and send big congrats because of your paper! <3

    Also, the Ballad of Birdy Bum is beautiful. I laughed so hard at the picture with the bird head stuck into a wall. I mean…what? Strange things do happen in this world, indeed.
    And I had no idea the Do-not-touch-baby-birds-because-their-parents-will-think-eeeww was false, so thanks for clarifying that! Incidentally, I stumbled over another post right after reading yours that said birds can't smell at all – is that true? I don't think I've ever heard of that before but really, I seem to have all the false information anyway and no one competent ever clears it up.
    Anyway, I love the pictures and the fantastic ballad (magic leaf elevators!) and everything and I'm glad to have you back!

  7. Love your blog! I’m a bird biologist who has banded a lot of baby birds, and yes they’re delicate, but not thaaat readily breakable as long as you don’t go all Lenny on them and squeeze them in your giant human hands. I would worry more that a nestling that old would decide he didn’t like the looks of you and jump off of the leaf, potentially with a hard landing on the pavement. Glad it worked out with this little dude.

    • Thank you so much! It’s lovely to hear from you.

      With my much more limited experience, I particularly recommend lying to baby birds. Their gullibility and sense of natural wonder will lead them to believe that they really are going to Hogwarts.

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