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Wednesday, 08 August 2012

How a Baby Bluejay, Feral Cats and the West Nile Virus Might Be Connected

By Jacqueline Herships of The Little Old Lady Stays Put


The other day Dechok, the Buddhist nun who lives with us in our shared house, came in from her morning walk with her hands tightly cupped demanding attention.

I was busy at my computer and therefore had to be loudly told that she was holding a baby blue jay and needed help. Good Lord. There is hardly ever a dull moment in a shared house, even in one as quiet as ours.

Where does this fit into our topic of finding a new affordable place to live or to figure out how to stay put? It doesn’t really. But it does point up the power of community to inject life and relevance into daily life. Which is what staying put where you are already connected is all about.

They say that moving is right up there on the life trauma list with losing a job, divorce or a spouse or loved one dying. Although many seniors insist they are not lonely or isolated, articles about them insist that they are.

The problem is as follows: We know that isolation leads to depression, that depression leads to illness and that illness is expensive and draining for the one who is ill as well as for their friends and families.

How much better for all concerned if we elders can manage to live an engaged and interesting life in the communities we have grown familiar with over many years.


Returning to the baby blue jay. Dechok had found it struggling with what appeared to be a double injury to both wing and foot and knowing that our neighborhood is swarming with feral cats, she decided that the poor thing wouldn’t stand a chance if she left it to its own devices.

Fortunately, I happened to know of The Raptor Trust, a rare and wonderful bird sanctuary situated in an area of New Jersey known as the Great Swamp. In addition, I knew that The Raptor Trust takes in wounded birds.

Of course, they were probably not going to want a bluejay, which isn’t a raptor, but I knew of another case from my days as a journalist in which they took in a chicken with an injured foot after no vet in the vicinity would touch it. So I thought they would probably do it. Which they did.

So there we were with the baby bluejay in a large brown paper grocery bag rushing to the doctor, as it were. And thanks to the modern miracles of MapQuest and Google, we arrived safely with the bird much improved and demonstrating loudly why jays are referred to as noisy.

In fact, the overburdened staff member who greeted us didn’t want to take it in at all, explaining that all fledgling bluejays are kicked out of their nests by their parents, initially cannot fly and struggle around as ours had been doing with their parents flying in and out with food and one likes to think, concern.

We greeted their suggestion that we take it back with a resounding NO, because of the thousands of cats in the area. And they agreed to keep it, thank heaven.


But the encounter with the bluejay got us thinking that municipalities such as ours should mount “trap, spay, neuter and release” programs for the poor wild cats which now starve behind locked garages when there aren’t enough baby birds to go around.

If the birds were allowed to live, they would enjoy eating mosquitoes which are the vector for some of our worrisome new diseases such as West Nile and the even more terrible dengue which is beginning its march into areas of this country.

This is not a call to destroy all feral cats. They also keep mouse and rat populations in check. It is just a suggestion that we work to reduce their numbers. http://theraptortrust.org/

Finally, a thank you toTthe Raptor Trust for being there and for being of service to blue jays.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Enjoyed this story. You exhibit a rare insight into how ecological systems function.

I can understand how you both felt about the bird. Because I was a nurse, my children and the neighboring children always brought deserted or injured baby animals for me to raise or "cure". These included birds and one time even baby possums whose mother had been shot and killed. I am glad the Raptor Trust kept your bird.

I totally enjoyed this story and it made me think of the controversy in our small town about the wild cats that run around her. A woman who lives across the street simply has a cow about the cats who drop into her flower gardens to do their business. I know I have the same problem with the outside cats that visit our garden. However, we inherited an old tom here that demands to live both in and out. I've been worried what would happen if this across the street neighbor trapped him. No worries, I talked to the town cop who assured me that Carmel is safe. But he also pointed out the need for the cats at the local grainery that eats the mice (and no, the cats can't get into the grain.) Without those guys on the job, our little town with two big graineries would be in trouble deep. It's a tough call on feral cats. Great story and good discussion. I wish the cats didn't eat birds at all.

Although I've been on Blogger for a year and a month now, I'm still not sure how to answer individuals who post. I did try w/ Gabby Geezer but there were just too many barriers to entry. Therefore a thank you to all. I do believe that if our species is to survive, the connections between us need to be better understood not only by specialists but by all. And since I am not a scientist, my approach to it all is to tell stories. xxo, Jackie AKA LOL

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