64 birdwatchersdigest.com • January/February’ 17 • bird Watcher’sdigest
That episode from last year
invaded my thoughts as I stood at
the kitchen window intently washing breakfast coffee mugs. All of a
sudden, a savage blow vibrated the
storm window just two feet from
my face. No question but that a
bird had collided with the glass.
The percussion seemed so forceful
that survival was doubtful. Nevertheless, I had to survey the damage.
A male cardinal had been
propelled back out to the feeding station at snow’s edge. Dazed
but breathing, he struggled. Both
wings were splayed at curious
angles. I rushed to shroud him in
warmth with the handiest item
available: my kitchen dish towel.
He squirted free and began to
flail. When blanketed once again,
he settled as I hugged him close.
Mindful of the frightening events
of last winter’s rescue, I tried to
think of a more suitable enclosure.
A timely solution spewed into the
frigid March morning in the form
of furnace exhaust. This tepid air
might work to keep his core temperature stable.
I propped the swaddled convalescent directly beneath the furnace
vent. If not disturbed, the frightened creature might stay quiet, rest,
and recover. A folded-back corner
of the towel exposed his black
mask and established a visible gateway to freedom.
With measured stealth, I backed
away, turned, and sped inside to the
furnace thermostat and raised it to
80 degrees Fahrenheit. An outdoor
inspection revealed the steamy dis-
charge precisely above my feathery
patient. Only time would tell.
Dishwashing duties completed,
I checked outside. On approach,
nothing seemed to have shifted.
The towel was still in place. But I
could see no hint of bright cardinal
red. Gently, I pulled the coverlet
away. Gone. My patient was gone.
I had a split-second mental
image of predators. Had I inadvertently served up dinner for a neighborhood house cat or an exploring
Cooper’s hawk? But there was
absolutely no sign of foul play. The
only tracks in the snow were my
My previous attempts to lessen
the appeal of window glass for
birds—by using curtains or movement or lighting or color—have
all been unsuccessful. And I am
not even positive that my lifesaving
attempts have improved. But the
cardinal’s disappearance did give
me hope, so I prefer to believe this
feathered friend did survive and
lived to fly another day. a
As often as possible, Paula
Keller from Navarre, Ohio, escapes
to a hidden, woodsy cabin where
her watercolors and hooked rugs
hint at nature’s drama.
Editor’s note: See tinyurl.
com/prevent-strikes for 10 tips
to prevent window strikes.