Thank you to our volunteer Shannon for sharing these vivid experiences from her first patrol season.
As a volunteer for Safe Wings Ottawa, I spend early mornings and late evenings searching for birds. Most I find have already died and, although a few are still alive, others lose their life in my hands.
To date, the saddest moment for me has been finding what I thought was a single dead Brown Thrasher on a cold, rainy day. A few moments later I noticed a tiny, injured Kinglet sitting close to him, presumably for protection and warmth. Two birds had collided into the same window and the live one was looking to the dead one for help. So small, I almost missed her.
I have experienced many more equally memorable moments including, but not limited to, birds: a defiant chipmunk with a hummingbird in its mouth, a beautiful male wood duck in breeding plumage lying under the smallest of windows, a wild turkey flying into glass (leaving us both stunned) and a male pileated woodpecker whose mate was calling for him. Equally unique, I have been sprayed by a skunk, seen beautiful Luna moths on buildings and was nearly knocked over by a fox chasing a groundhog. The groundhog lived. One morning at a seniors’ residence, a lady was so upset to find me searching through garbage [where we sometimes find dead birds discarded by maintenance staff], she gave me three dollars.
People often ask me why. I think small steps are better than no steps. It’s important to always have hope. Most people don’t realize how serious the problem is or how simple, small changes can result in saving many birds lives. Seeing a Safe Wings display with hundreds, if not thousands, of dead birds, some of which I found, is a very real eye opener for people. I think it is important for people to learn that the birds found are not a true reflection of the actual number of birds killed by window strikes.
At the end of the day, I want birds to be saved before there are no birds to save. To me, they are beautiful. Creative courtship displays, stunning colours, unique songs and incredible migration journeys are worth fighting for. We need birds; we need nature. Without either, there is no we.
And that is why I pick up birds. Because they matter.
Find out more about volunteering with Safe Wings Ottawa on our volunteer page.