Have you watched Mary Poppins? As a child, during the holidays, I would watch this movie numerous times until the video tape broke. The best part of the musical was when the birds sang when one perched on Mary’s finger. I thought that was amazing and hoped that one day, I too would sing with a bird, or at least get a bird to come close to me enough to perch on my hand.
Travelling is always a joy and full of unexpected surprises. On a sunny day on my day off, my partner, my host, her children and I were taking a walk down the street of Rue de Villard, Divonne-les- Bains in France.
We passed a dust bin and noticed a little bird next to the bin. I looked at it and wondered if it was dead; it stood very still. On looking closer we noticed it was indeed alive. Looking up, since the bird was little, I decided to see if there was a nest or a bird flying above looking for this little black bird. My host proceeded to pick up the bird. The bird was fluttering its wings wildly. You could see it was very frightened of us – the giants. How were we to reassure it that we would not cause it any harm? We walked a few metres and lifted it to the air and told it to go fly and be with its kind. All of us were hopeful, and amazed that we had the opportunity to hold this little creature. The bird tried to fly but landed clumsily on the ground. Worried, I looked at its wing, which seemed fine. Its feet as well seemed fine. So I came to the conclusion that the bird probably fell from its nest.
When it is hot in Divonne there are a number of fontaine along the roads that flow abundantly with water. Passers-by usually use it to cool down and water their furry friends. I cupped water in my hands and let the bird drink from it. After which the bird probably came to the conclusion that we would not harm it. We took turns carrying it in our hands and trekked off to Forest Land, figuring out what we could do for the bird. As I was visiting, I knew I could not take the bird with me. With all the laws on animals within the EU (European Union), the bird would need a chip, passport and all that paper work – so for a short time it just seemed like a major hassle. I concluded that my host who lived in the area would be perfect as she had animals at home. So I jokingly christened her mama oiseaux (the mother of birds).
We arrived at Lake Divonne and immediately noticed people fishing along the lake.
We attempted to feed the bird some grass and noticed it was not eating. Thereafter I came up with a brilliant idea of digging up worms for the bird. The bird must have been hungry; we had no idea how long it had been next to the dust bin in the heat. The bird gulped down both of the fat worms. These must have been juicy as it looked full. On arriving at Forest Land, with the 30 degree centigrade heat we ordered ice-cream. The bird sat on my lap and we took turns to keep the bird comfortable. Of course we washed our hands in between before having our ice cream and after holding the bird.
As we had planned on relaxing by playing mini-golf, we wondered who would hold the bird. For some strange reason the bird decided to perch on my partner’s shoulder. It stayed there the whole time through the 18 holes and when we took the children to play with the hurricane. People came up to us and were curious about the bird.
The following day, we contemplated taking it to the vet; apparently the vet in Divonne-les- Bains did not deal with birds. We found out there was a bird sanctuary that took care of birds in Switzerland. A kind middle-aged lady, who came up to us and asked about the bird offered to take it on our behalf to Switzerland. The children named the bird Rio, inspired by the animation film. We said goodbye to our feathered friend. It was sad to say goodbye as we had become attached to it.
We later found out the bird was actually an adult that was 15 grams less of its original weight and that is why it could not fly. We also found out it was a martinet. In English Common Swift (Apus apus) breed.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to visit the bird as there are lots of sick birds there. At the end of the day, it was an incredible and unforgettable experience. Rio spent 24 hours with us but brought us a lot of joy. Most of all, I was happy to fulfill my Mary Poppins fantasy.