Les oisillons: baby birds fall into our yard + caring for injured and baby chicks

tourterelle baby doves
These baby doves were discovered in our garden one week ago. Don't miss the story, below. See any mistakes in today's post? Your edits are helpful and appreciated. Merci d'avance.

TODAY’S FRENCH WORD: un oisillon 

: baby bird, chick

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.

Click here for the soundfile

Vous POUVEZ remettre un oisillon dans son nid. Contrairement à un mythe très répandu, les parents ne sentiront pas votre odeur si vous le touchez (l'odorat des oiseaux n'est en général pas très développé).

You CAN put a baby bird back in its nest. Contrary to a common myth, the parents will not smell you if you touch it (birds' sense of smell is usually not very developed). --intra-science.com

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

A week ago, Thursday, Jean-Marc and Jackie found baby birds in our yard, below the 20ft palm tree. My husband was getting ready to BBQ some salmon when he stepped back and almost crushed something under his shoe: a nestling, with all its feathers, scraggly looking and weak. Moments later our daughter discovered a second oisillon, severely injured and bleeding. There were scrapes all along its side, on the wing, and a deep, large gash on its back from un prédateur? Un chat?

I hurried and got a box, set a towel inside, and ran around the side of the house to Mom's studio. Jules shot into action: examining the doves, she began to wash the wounds of the injured one with water and drops of Bétadine. As she cared for them, Mom kept repeating, “They are big, these babies are big,” giving us all hope the lost ones would make it through their ordeal.

These fledglings were tourterelles turques, or Eurasian collared doves–very common in our neighborhood. Lucky little rescapés! To think their life hinged on a banal and flippant decision: earlier there was a question of cooking our lunch (fish) on the BBQ or in the frying pan. I kept hesitating until, oh let Jean-Marc cook outside--less of a mess in the kitchen! We would never have found the struggling oiselets had JM not gone out to the yard. Surely the cats would have come back in that scenario….

After lunch (the little orphans with us on the bench), Jules disappeared, leaving the helpless birds to Jackie… I didn’t understand why Mom would abandon her doves (we voted Jules as Chief Nurse) until she returned a while later having done a crash course via YouTube on how to care for fallen or injured birds. Apparently we had on hand all supplies needed, including dog croquettes… and the human touch, which Mom said was the most important ingredient. As Jules cradled the injured birdling, my thoughts slipped out, “Mom, haven’t you ever heard you’re not supposed to touch a baby bird? The parents will reject it!”

Jules wasted no time arguing. Tearing up her favorite wool nightshirt, she swaddled each chick. Emmitouflés, snug and warm they were carefully fed "un velouté de croquettes" (enough to nourish and hydrate them) before being placed near the heater in Mom’s tiny salle-de-bain.

I didn’t think the injured one would make it through the night, but early the next day I found Mom awake, feeding one of the nestlings, who now had a name: "Betty." I knew right away the other was "Rusty," after Mom’s dear, departed brother.

We took Rusty and Betty outside to the “nursery” (the center of our garden, beside the weeping pepper tree). There on a carpet of delicate white flowers we set the baby birds. The sun and fresh air began to dry Betty’s wounds. If it wasn’t amazing enough to see them alive Day Two, Day Three presented a miracle when a couple of doves landed beside the box and began feeding the baby birds!

It was no other than Mama and Papa, a pair of doves Jules befriended 3 years ago. So tame, they feed right out of Jules' hands and have landed on her head and shoulders dozens of times. Here they were, taking turns feeding Rusty and Betty. But were these fallen chicks their offspring? I didn't think so, but Jules insisted they were!

I noticed the parents opening wide their beaks for the babies to reach in and feed (I always thought it was the other way around, with the mama putting the food into the baby's beak).  "
This is good!" I said to Mom, happy she would have relief from the regular day/night feedings. 

"And the good news is I don’t have to teach them to fly!" Mom smiled. Sacré Jules. I could just see her flapping her wings!

They next days were a treasure, with our family gathered in the garden for the 3 or so daily feedings, in which Mama and Papa flew in to nourish the babies, who began trembling each time they were ready to eat (see video below). If it was awesome to watch the feeding you should have seen these fierce protectors dive bomb any bird that came near our yard (parts of which are now covered in feathers). They even chased the cats away!

Sacré Mama and Papa. I never did understand why Mom named the doves this way (always wished she'd come up with something zippier--Suzette and Fritz, for example. But now I see it clearly. Mama and Papa have come into their names.

This morning I went to get Rusty and Betty from Mom's, to put them out in the "nursery." Mama and Papa flew in immediately and began feeding their kids. Jackie and I sat chatting on the edge of the little pond/fountain, Smokey beside us, as usual. (Mama and Papa practically walk over his paws to get to where they're going and the baby doves find it normal to have a giant golden retriever looking over them.) This morning was one of the loveliest and when it came time to put the baby birds back into the box.... Rusty flew up to a branch!

I ran to get Mom, who hurried out. Jules's reflex was to get Rusty down off that branch (a rainstorm was coming in...) but as she approached the parents flew in and Rusty took off in a spectacular arc over our yard landing in the tree on the corner of our lot (above the busy crossroads in our neighborhood). He's been there now 8 hours, his parents looking on from the telephone pole beside the tree. 

Should we get a ladder? Toss a ball near the branch? Will he survive the night? He must be getting cold. What will happen to little Rusty? The overall feeling (beside helplessness) is to leave the parents to take over from here on. But why aren't the stealth dive bombers moving him along, steering their young one back to the nest? 

Please send good wishes Rusty's way. Meantime Betty is back with Mom. Ever a fighter with those battle scars, she's ready to fly too. But with the rain coming in we want to keep her dry and warm a little while longer.

I worry about Jules as much as the nestlings. She's put her everything into nursing them back to life, and she didn't get to say goodbye to one of the little ragamuffins, as she called them. I want this story to have a happy ending for the birds and for my Mom, but will have to stop here and cross fingers. Bonne chance, Rusty and à demain, j'éspère.

Click the arrow in the screen below to start the video, or view directly on my Instagram



un oisillon = chick, baby bird
un petit oiseau baby bird
tomber = to fall
blessé = hurt, injured
le prédateur = predator
le chat = cat
le nid = nest
la Bétadine = Povidone-iodine, a popular antiseptic 
la tourterelle = dove, see "lovebirds" in French
l'orphelin, l'orpheline = orphan
un (une) rescapé(e)
= survivor
un oiselet = baby bird, chick
la croquette = dog biscuit, kibble, dry food
emmitoufler = to wrap up warmly, to swaddle
un velouté de croquettes = cream of kibble soup
la salle de bain = bathroom
= to bounce, jump
voler = to fly
soigner = to care for
à demain, j'éspère = see you tomorrow, I hope
The blossoming tree where Rusty landed. See him camouflaged there in the center? 

A Message from KristiFor 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 (to this new address)
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


Bike in Puymeras (c) Kristin Espinasse

France is on the road again, with a new Président de la République française, though some wonder where we are headed. Photo taken at le Girocèdre restaurant, in Puyméras

mésaventure (mayz-avohn-tewhr)

    : mishap, mischance, misadventure

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Almost as soon as our new "France United" president was elected, things fell apart here at home. The painful mésaventure happened last night, here in our kitchen. As certain accidents go, it was both bizarre and comical (with all due respect to the injured one).

Jean-Marc had opened the kitchen cupboard to check on the new mousetrap he had set, using a big hunk of Munster* for the tempting appât. I don't like cruel mousetraps or the fact that I—having unwittingly shopped for the cheese—have contributed to a souris's demise , so it should have come as a relief to learn that the mouse got away. As it was, I was unaware of the mouse's luck or that Jean-Marc had set another trap (the details of the accident would soon be revealed as we sped to the emergency room...).

From my vantage point, I saw a man opening a cupboard door, as if to toss something into the recycle bin beyond. Nothing unusual apart from the high-pitched scream that followed:


My first thought was that Jean-Marc had pinched his finger while shutting the cabinet door (happens to me from time to time only I never scream like that!) 

"Est-ce que ça-va, Cheri?" I asked, feeling somewhat smug about my own ability to tolerate pain. 

AÏE AÏE AÏE! "C'est pas vrai!" Jean-Marc cried. "I've dislocated my shoulder again!" 

The freak accident happened when Jean-Marc went to reach for the cheeseless trap. The mouse had succeeded in getting l'appât, leaving the trap springily intact. As Jean-Marc reached for it it snapped. Startled from the snapping he jumped, yanking his arm back before his finger got caught in the apparatus. It was the unusual jerking movement that caused his already troubled shoulder to dislocate.

After three hours at les urgences in Orange, Jean-Marc woke from his morphine-induced sleep. Like the previous visit, it took four assistants to put his shoulder back into place.

At two-thirty a.m. we pulled into our driveway. The crickets were singing beneath the bright moon which lighted the path to our front door. As we walked, I looked over at my one-armed man, whose upper body was wrapped in a tight elastic bandage. 

In contrast to the peaceful night, my mind raced. I felt that familiar tightening sensation in my throat. The alarm would sound in three hours' time and the race would begin again: this time without a second driver (to chauffeur the kids back and forth), without a bottler (we have 8,000 units of wine to bottle this week) and without an expressive speaker (Tuesday's wine-tasting has grown to 30 guests!).

On second thought, knowing my husband he will be just as eloquent, even with only one arm to wave around while talking wine. Up to me to refill glasses 120 times—should he decide to serve 4 wines!

"Tout se passera bien. Ne t'inquiète pas," Jean-Marc offered, as I shared my soucis. To eloquence I think we can add that he's got terrific reassurance!

Bon rétablissement, Chief Grape!


Comments Corner

To respond to this story or to any item in this letter, thanks for using the comments box.

If you like, you can read about the previous shoulder dislocation... and the one before that, too! 

French Vocabulary

la mésaventure = mishap

l'appât (m) = bait

la souris = mouse

aïe!  = ouch! ow!

est-ce que ça-va cheri? = are you okay, dear?

c'est pas vrai! (ce n'est pas vrai) = it can't be true!

 les urgences = the emergency room

les soucis = worries

Tout se passera bien. Ne t'inquiète pas = Everything will work out fine. Don't worry.

bon rétablissement! = get well soon!


*Did you know?

*The name "Munster" comes from the word "monastère" (monastery), the peasants having taken the habit of paying part of their taxes to the Ducs of Lorraine, by giving up some of their cheese.

Le nom de « Munster » vient du mot « monastère », les paysans ayant pris l'habitude de régler une partie de leurs impôts aux ducs de Lorraine en livrant ce fromage. --from French Wikipedia


  Wash-n-Dry (c) Kristin Espinasse
"The wash and dry cycles in Provence". Photo taken in Puyméras.

A Message from KristiFor 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 (to this new address)
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

secours + how to say "first aid" in French?

My 10-year-old style-conscious daughter. More in today's story... photo taken two years ago, when this edition was first published.

le secours (suh-koor) noun, masculine

 : help, aid, assistance, relief

                                    *     *     *
Viendra au secours de la peine d'autrui celui qui souffre lui-même.
(He) will come to the aid of the suffering other, he who suffers himself.

                        --Faramarz (12th century Persian author)

In French music: "Avec le Temps" by Leo Ferre

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Living out here in the vine boondocks, where high traffic means encountering one lazy tractor on my morning school run, I care less and less about presentation. Having all but worn my bathrobe while chauffeuring the kids into town, I wonder sometimes about risk-taking and ridicule.

Heading out the door to pick up the kids from school, I hesitate before the shoe pile. Forget it! I am not changing out of my slippers this time. The car is right outside the door. I only need to hop from doormat to car mat, risking but a trail of dust in between. As for hopping, that might be hard given the size of these slippers, which gets me thinking...

What IF I have an accident on the way to school? My daughter would kill me for getting caught in cotton "clogs". I look down at the un-dainty slippers, each one the size of a boat and with enough insulation to temper arctic waters.

Silly thought, that of getting caught. The odds of that happening! I shake my head and grab the car keys before stepping into car, lifting one giant slipper after the other, and pulling out of the driveway.

At a country crossroad where one, two, three, four paths meet—two of which are dirt roads—I slow down. With the help of peripheral vision I sense an object speeding forward to my right. I am amazed to encounter another car!

Right, priorité à droite! I remind myself, giddy at the chance to give another driver the right-of-way. Only, given the hairpin turn awaiting the other driver, I have to put the car in reverse in order to make room.

As the car passes, and with a great beaming smile on my face, I am the picture of good manners as I offer to willingly retreat for the hurried French driver. Backing up, it is only when I feel myself sliding to the right, that I realize I've nearly ended up in a ditch!

Back to that unglamorous glitch. I look down to the floorboard, toward the foot pedals hidden behind those gigantic slippers. Time to act quickly before secours arrives! I push in the clutch, put it in first, and all but pole-vault the front end of my car into the ditch. Whereas the back end had only flirted with the fall, it is in forgetting to straighten out the wheel that I dig my own descent.

I quickly put the car into reverse and listen as the engine replies in rip-roarious ridicule. A cloud of dust appears beyond the back window. Each clumsy kick of the clutch sends my slipper-boats sinking into the floorboard until a chilly arctic awareness sets in. I am not going anywhere. I will have to get out of the car and walk to town with those ridiculous "rafts" on my feet.

I look up, as one does for mercy, and notice something in the rearview mirror: two strangers slowly appearing amidst the dust cloud. One man is smoking a pipe, the other has car keys in his hand. I recognize The Right-of-Way driver and co-pilot. I see them jump into the ditch, walk over to the dangling front tire and lift it up—along with the car!

"Avancez," they say, holding the car in the palms of their hands.

The situation is surreal and there, behind the wheel, I feel uplifted by the strangers' secours. I AM uplifted, as is my car! My eyes do a double-take and I see the pipe in one man's mouth, a smile on the other's. Sweat begins to appear on their collective brows.

"Vous voulez que j'avance?" I say, afraid to run them both back into the ditch.
"Oui, Madame," they answer, politely, painfully, sweat now pouring down.

Right. This is no time to second guess. I tried that with the slippers and who knows if that played a part in this mess? Grinding the gearshift into first, I literally peel out of those men's palms.

 *     *     *

Looking back I saw the men waving, unharmed. I had thought it was I the Good Samaritan. Slippers tucked safely now beneath a spared ego, I think again.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is open to your comments about today's word or story. You may also pose questions about France, the French language, and similar topics. By helping each other, we enrich this community, educate, and inspire one another in all things French. Click here to comment.

Have a minute to read another story? Here's one I wrote four years ago... about coloring Easter eggs with the kids. Thanks for checking it out and sharing it with a friend. Click here to read "Tremper". 

French Vocabulary
priorité à droite = priority (goes to the driver) to the right
avancez (avancer) = go forward, advance
le secours (m) = aid
Vous voulez que j'avance = Do you want me to advance?


:: Audio File ::
Listen to these French words: Secours.
Viendra au secours de la peine d'autrui celui qui souffre lui-même. Download secours.mp3 or Download secours.wav


French Words & Expressions:
  Au secours! = Help!
  appeler au secours = to call/cry for help
  la caisse de secours = relief / charity fund
  les fonds de secours = emergency fund
  porter secours à quelqu'un = to give assistance to someone
  sortie de secours = emergency exit
  le secours moral, mutuel = moral / mutual support
  les premiers secours = first aid

A Message from KristiFor 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 (to this new address)
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