Dead Bird in the Freezer True Story Humor
Dead Bird in the Yard
The First Dead Bird
It was lying at the side of the driveway as we came home from running errands. Black, shiny, and reclining on its side in a most-dead-like pose. Wild birds do not just hang out all relaxed when a curious human scrutinizes it, nose-to-bill, a mere 10 inches apart.
I study it. Not because I am Sherlock Holmes or an ornithologist. I study it because I recently started a job with an environmental agency which deems dead birds to be a matter of importance. The ins and outs of dead birds --- I don’t know every implication, nor am I required in my position, but my sharp memory sounded the alert, “Yes, report dead birds and especially before the eyes disappear.”
Big Word Disease
Eyes disappear? “Is this an overdose of Harry Potter movies?” you may ask. I assure you it is not. The eyes disappear due to the feasting of insects who form a buffet line at the deceased’s corpse. Apparently, no more eyes coincides with no more data for the epidemiologists. “Rut-roh,” as Scooby-Doo would say. “What disease?” Answer: West Nile Virus.
This is a disease with three words in its name so it must be very important. My amateur examination of the bird (probably a grackle) leads me to deduce that the eyes are in grand shape. But, it is a Friday EVENING. All the scientists are at home enjoying their kids’ T-ball games and making burgers on the grill. How can I contribute to the good fight? Should I freeze it?
YYYYYuck! My domestic partner and I have only one freezing appliance and it is in the kitchen cradling our food. I can put multiple plastic bags around the specimen, the evidence, the dearly beloved one, and take it into work on Monday, but EEEyucck! I cannot make myself do it. Furthermore, my partner says “NO!”
So, okay. The dead bird is wrapped for burial in the garbage can. I assuage my conscience by convincing myself that the bird died of blunt force trauma or that it was just “its time.” It wasn’t diseased, I reassure myself. On Monday, I casually report the Dead Bird Affair, as it came to be known, to our West Nile Virus guy. He is not overly concerned.
Fast forward two weeks
Another dead bird.
This time it is bleepin’ FRESH. I discover it in the afternoon on one of the many times I go in and out the back door. This fellow is lying right in the middle of our deck, soft, warm and limp. I know he is limp because I gingerly lift him with a garden trowel.
The Second Dead Bird
Dead. Dead as a doornail. As dead as his compatriot of two weeks earlier. He is not a grackle. He is smaller and all gray, but I do not see the markings of a catbird or a fledgling robin. Bad luck strikes at our humble household again! It is 4:30 PM, almost quitting time at the agency. I call quickly, knowing that it is highly likely that the West Nile Virus guy is out in the field and won’t get my message for 16 hours. Sixteen long hours during which the summer heat wave and the marauding maggots could make…his eyes disappear! Not again!
Should I freeze this one? In our refrigerator? It looks smaller and more innocent. Maybe it would have smaller germ cells? I am less resistant to the idea, since I have struggled with it recently AND since a rash of dead birds in my yard may justify the sacrifice of mixing food and science. Sure enough, our West Nile guy is out. Wait – I remember I have an agency pamphlet here at home, with emergency numbers for dead bird reporting.
After dialing the state-wide hotline for dead birds, I get a live human being on the line. This is good. The SWAT team will race over, I imagine, and life on my street will be safe once again. She asks in what county do I reside? I tell her, and then she gives me the phone number of my own agency!!! And, it’s after hours!!! No one will help me tonight.
Science versus Common Sense
Again, I wrestle with scientific progress versus my personal safety and comfort. I envision 30 plastic grocery bags enshrouding the little birdie. I envision carrying the frozen bird in to work and learning that the West Nile Guy is out in the field all day and THEN what do I do with the corpse? We do not have a lab at our facility. Would I have gone to all this trouble of preserving and transporting to have it end with tossing the little blighter into the dumpster at work? Again, I refrain from bringing a dead bird inside.
I am starting to wonder what this all means. In an earlier life when I performed retirement plan administration, co-workers nicknamed me “Our Lady of Pensions.” Am I earning a new sobriquet of “Our Lady of the Dead Birds?” Am I channelling Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds? The West Nile Guy is still not too concerned. Nonetheless, he succumbed to my begging that he put my street on the list for taking samples. There is only one kind of dead bird that I want on my property or in my freezer: crispy fried chicken!
Hitchcock's The Birds
The Third Dead Bird
When I experienced the third dead bird, the West Nile Virus guy came to test. Thanks goodness! Although I do not know if he came out to shut me up or felt that there might be a legitimate concern, he took all set up traps to collect samples of mosquitoes and returned 24 hours later to get them. Lab analysis and his own eyeball expertise said, "No danger."
I guess we just live at the Happy Hunting Grounds for birds.
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Photo and text copyright 2011 Maren Morgan
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