A Happy Ending + "To Fly Away" in French

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.

Click  here for the soundfile

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
le bec = beak
sans frère = without brother
lâcher prise = to let go
le toit = rooftop
le gazouillis = chirps

Dove  golden retriever  garden
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.

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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 KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety