Growing up, my sister had an empty tissue box that she used to store her entomological collection. It held more than just dead bugs though; there were also flattened lizards and snakes that had dried out on the hot Florida asphalt. If she found something too large or juicy for her little cardboard box, then she’d peel it off the ground and take it home for a “proper burial.”
My mom, on the other hand, had the good luck to come across every down and out cat, raccoon, and bird in need of a little TLC and hearty serving of food. Between my mom and my sister, our house was never short of one-eyed squirrels, mummified frogs, and chickens with bandaged thighs and hefty vet bills.
Although I shouldn’t say ‘growing up’ because twenty years later the two of them still rescue stray animals and foster as many kittens as they can get their hands on. The last time I took a walk with my sister she scraped a squashed cat off the road and placed it on a grassy strip in front of a restaurant. I couldn’t see how that helped anyone (the restaurant or the cat), but she felt very strongly about it not being left in the road to get run over again.
Compared to the two of them I had never felt as proactive, but when Barret told me one Saturday morning about a stranded baby bird in our front yard, I immediately jumped into action. While I looked for old shirts to make a nest, Barret did a little research. It turned out that our newest addition was a Common Myna- an invasive species to Australia that was “probably better off dead.”
However, once I held the ugly little thing and noted its hugely disapproving frown, I knew what I had to do. I cooked up some porridge and coaxed its beak open. My little bird seemed so angry to be rehydrated that as soon as I placed it back in its box it shit what looked like a fried egg.
Barret didn’t want to clean up after it, but I didn’t mind. He also wasn’t crazy about touching the bird, but I enjoyed the cool bony talons wrapping around my fingers. Angry Bird could flap its wings, but its feathers weren’t developed enough yet. They were still emerging from these weird tubes on its skin that reminded me of beaded curtains.
I especially enjoyed the persistent scowl. That sour look inspired me to photograph Angry Bird (Star Wars edition) and it’s also what I missed the most when I woke up one morning to find my bird stiff and cold. I knew the chances of surviving a two-story fall were slim- but it was worth a short. I must be much more of my mother’s daughter than I realized.