One dove, Betty (pictured beside Mama), remained in our care until Sunday...when she successfully took flight. Read on for an update on her brother, Rusty, and his trick on local tourists :-) Your edits to this post are helpful, appreciated, and incorporated as soon as possible. Merci.
TODAY'S FRENCH WORD: "s'envoler"
: to take flight, to fly away, to fly off
SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
The baby birds have successfully flown our makeshift coop. Quel soulagement! But eight days into the doves' rescue we were holding our breath after one of the oisillons took off in an erratic flight, landing above the busy street corner at the edge of our lot.
As trucks shrieked by and hungry seagulls flew overhead our eyes were trained on the teetering tourterelle, Rusty. How he surprised us when he suddenly took flight after his last feeding in the garden (when I filmed this video). And there we thought his sister, Betty, would be first to fly the nest--Betty with the deep cat stratch along her side and giant gash in her back. "Betty is like those who've had a near-death experience," Mom remarked. "She is determined to live life to its fullest!" Betty was the first to jump up onto the box-nest's edge, first to venture out around the garden, her body scabbed, her wing missing too many feathers to fly straight. How she'd survived that bloody attack still amazes us (she went on to fall into the low-lying fountain, where Jackie scooped her right out. Shivering and wet, our little feathered fighter soldiered on).
Each day we watched the baby doves grow stronger, thanks to regular feedings by Mama and Papa Dove, and my own Mom's loving care. When sibling, Rusty, took off last week, ending up in the flowering Arbre de Judée (a bad omen?), he remained there past sundown, his head tucked into his fluffy chest. That next morning I feared finding him lying stiff in the garden after a cold, rainy night, but there he was on that flimsy perchoir, same pitiful position. I hoped he'd caught a few of those raindrops in his tiny bec (Mother Nature was kind in sending a misty shower and not the pelting rains we've had in the past).
That afternoon Rusty changed positions on that branch, assuring us all he was not in some kind of coma. And now, by facing our garden vs. facing the busy street, he seemed better off: he would recognize his nursery, below (the grassy area where he and his sister were placed each day of their weeklong rehabilitation). He could also see and recognize his caregivers as we regularly waved our arms and called to him, "Rusty, Rusty, Rusty!" By day three we were dumbstruck over how the tiny creature could survive without food or water (there were no signs of the parents feeding him). Meantime Mama and Papa Dove continued feeding Betty thanks to all the dog croquettes Jules fed them.
But finally, we were elated to discover Mama and Papa feeding Rusty. No wonder he survived the past 3 days. He was being nurtured all along. We even saw him fly from his branch to the telephone pole higher up, beside the tree, where one of his parents would join him for regular feedings.
By Saturday night, Betty was raring to go. Only her flight pattern (on her brief take-offs a meter above ground) was irregular. It was that maimed wing keeping her grounded. Yet she was determined and all but broke out of my hands when I brought her back inside the last two nights. It was sad to have to leave our little wild bird alone for the night, sans frère, in Mom's bathroom, not a leaf in sight, but when I discovered the toilet seat open I flipped. Betty was set to be released in the morning, but what if she had a freak accident the night before!
"Mom! You must remember to put the lid down!" Poor Jules was exhausted after 10 sleepless nights, caring for her fiesty new roommate. Leaving Mom's studio that night, I feared a second twist-of-fate. What if the lid was left up accidentally and Betty flew into the toilet bowl?.... But to remind Mom once more to be cautious would be hurtful. Il fallait lacher prise. It was time to let go and have faith.
The next morning I hurried to Mom's studio, around the side of our house. Jules was getting ready to feed Betty (oh, thank God!) but Mama Dove was waiting in the garden to feed her, too. "Let's go!" I said. "Are you ready?"
"We are ready," Mom replied, answering for herself and Betty.
Out in the garden Mama and Papa were now feeding both siblings, Rusty (who'd returned to his flimsy branch, just the right size for his little feet?) and Betty there on the grass. After mama bird flew off suggestively, Betty surprised us by flying up to the hammock! Only, when she began eyeing the east end of the yard, beyond which 4 neighbor cats live.... Mom asked me to stand guard. "Mom!" I said, "we can't manipulate the situation. We've got to...."
And just as I stood arguing, Betty flew off the hammock and landed on my head!
How good her little scratchy purple feet felt in my scalp! Mom and I exchanged looks of delight along with smiles as big as the flying leap Betty just took.
I slowly walked my passenger to the nearest perch (our tall table, facing the front of the house). Betty hopped off of my head and onto the table where she carefully thought over her next move. Suddenly, she flew up to the rooftop beside our porch, then up again to the highest toit. A perfect choice! From there she could hop onto the gigantic cedar tree with its endless branches.
Mom and I were clapping and whistling in celebration when next Betty disappeared into the dark green network of branches: How would we find her again and if we did, how would be know which bird she was?
Turns out there are several ways to identify a baby collared dove: 1) they haven't yet developed the black with white trim "half collar" around their necks 2) their feathers are dark but will become a light gray after their first molt 3) their distinct gazouillis or baby chirps set them apart from adults.
It's two weeks now since we found those fledglings in the yard. And just yesterday Betty flew back to our garden to peck the ground alongside her ravenous parents. We guessed she’d be in Paris or Miami by now, such is her adventurous character! Rusty is still up in his same tree, amusing us with his antics, such as his finicky eating...
As Mother and son perch high up on the telephone pole (where Russ sometimes ventures), one feeding the other, a shower of large crumbs rains down on the sidewalk below.
"Mom," I say, elbowing Jules. "You've got to crush those kibbles before feeding them to Mama! Rusty won't accept them that way."
"Honey, I'm doing the best I can," Jules says, rolling her eyes.
"That's true. And those baby birds would never have made it without you."
Mom is visibly touched by the recognition. And with that, we sit back and enjoy the moment. The sun is beginning to set, Betty’s finding her way around the gigantic Cedar tree, and Rusty is spitting out more of his dinner, showering unsuspecting tourists who are returning to their cars after a day at the beach. This is just the happy ending I was hoping for, and more :-)
Top photo: Betty, not yet ready to fly, only wishing to. Above: Perched on her box beside the artichokes, waiting for a parent to fly down and feed her again. Smokey is lounging over there on the right.
s'envoler = to take flight
le soulagement = relief
un oisillon = baby bird, nestling, fledgling
la tourterelle = collared dove
L'Arbre de Judée = Judas tree
le perchoir =roost
le bec = beak
sans frère = without brother
lâcher prise = to let go
le toit = rooftop
le gazouillis = chirps
Mama and Papa, whom Jules has fed for 3 years. And that is the high table (a former, ailing Palm Tree) from where Betty flew. She landed on the roof, left.
A Message from Kristi: For twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.
Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety