Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review - Flyaway: How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings by Suzie Gilbert


Yesterday morning two Amish carpenters, a young Amish apprentice, a hunky farmguy, and a little old diesel tractor demolished our sagging haybarn, hauled off the debris, and began constructing a new one.


Last week, while out buying building materials for the new haybarn at Lowe's, I spied a butter yellow, retro style two-seat glider that matches the chair I scored there last summer for ten bucks. I immediately dragged the glider into the aisle, plunked myself down, and waited for Joe to come around the corner, see how perfect I looked sitting in it, and loudly exclaim that of course we had to buy it.


"No," he said, then turned to the smiling saleslady and explained, "She never sits down."


"But it matches my chair!"


He was kind enough to refrain from pointing out that I never actually sit in my chair.


I love books, and reading is one of my favorite things to do. I also love living on a farm. Unfortunately these two things do not go very well together, and I rarely have time to read, especially during the spring, when it always feels like there are 3,000 more urgent things to be done. Thank goodness for the invention of audio books, or I'm sure I would have keeled over from literature withdrawal years ago.


In order to keep myself from going any crazier than I already am, I also recently decided that I need to eliminate as many deadlines from my life as possible.
More below. . .


Phoebe Nest in Sheep Barn on 5-2-08
Bird nest in the sheep barn on 5-2-08


Of course none of this kept me from agreeing to be part of an upcoming TLC Virtual Book Tour for Flyaway (Paperback, 340 pages; Harper Perennial; $14.99), which would require writing and publishing a review of a book I hadn't yet read, on a specific day, smack dab in the middle of what I knew would be spring lambing season.


But after reading the intro included with the book tour request, I simply couldn't resist:


In this captivating memoir, Suzie Gilbert tells the rollicking story of how she turned her family life upside down to pursue her unusual passion for rehabilitating wild birds.


Through adolescence and into adulthood, Suzie Gilbert struggled to find her calling. But when she took a job working at the animal hospital near her home in New York's Hudson Vally, her passion was born. She began bringing abused and unwanted parrots home and a volunteering at a local raptor rehabilitation center, activities she continued for the next eleven years, even as she started a family. Then came the ultimate commitment to her cause: turning her home into Flyaway, Inc., a nonprofit wild bird rehabilitation center.


Gilbert chronicles the years of her chaotic household-cum-bird-hospital with delightful wit, recounting the confusion that ensued as her husband and two young children struggled to live in a house where parrots shrieked Motown songs, nestling robins required food every twenty minutes, and recuperating herons took over the spare bathroom.


Phoebe Nest in Sheep Barn on 5-22-08
Bird nest in the sheep barn on 5-22-08


As someone whose family has supported Audubon Canyon Ranch for decades, who resides way out in the country with dozens of animals, and who once had four baby possums living in a 6-foot by 8-foot pink and black Art Deco bathroom (don't ask), I felt an instant kinship with Suzie Gilbert—which is how I found myself standing in the lumber aisle at Lowe's last Wednesday afternoon, alternating between laughing hysterically and reading excerpts to Joe as he loaded up a giant stack of boards for the new haybarn. Fortunately Wednesday afternoons are pretty slow at Lowe's.


It doesn't take many pages of Flyaway to realize that Suzie Gilbert is not only a remarkable woman and a gifted writer, but is also funny as hell. Finding a short excerpt to quote in this review proved impossible. While sitting in the truck at a gas station last Friday as Joe filled up numerous cans of gas for the tractors, I managed to read 15 pages and wanted to include all of it.


Phoebe Nest in Sheep Barn on 5-28-08
Bird nest in the sheep barn on 5-28-08


At the risk of writing the longest book review ever (and probably violating a copyright law), here's a scene that no doubt caused more than a few Lowe's shoppers to wonder why there was maniacal laughter coming from the lumber department.


Wendy Westrom, VMD, knows her way around wildlife, having started out as a staff veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo. . . Fred and Wendy's rented apartment became the unofficial rehab area for a long and varied list of ailing creatures, among them an abandoned baby sea lion that the resourceful and unflappable Wendy smuggled into an unused hot tub downstairs.


. . . "Maggie tells me you have two beautiful flight cages," she said.


I nodded. "I really only take birds that are ready to fly. I have two kids, and I don't have the space for injured birds."


Wendy gestured to the robin. "You mean except for that one?" she asked with a grin.


"Yeah," I said. "Except for that one."


"I have one that a rehabber just dropped off," said Wendy. "He's unreleasable and going to a sanctuary on Long Island. They're going to pick him up in a couple of days. Could he stay in one of your flights? It would be a lot nicer for him than my basement."


"Sure!" I said.


As Wendy left the room it occurred to me that I hadn't asked her what kind of bird it was. Did "I have one" mean another robin or another bird? Wendy returned and placed a very large cardboard box on the floor. From within the box came an audible rustling, then a loud thud. Wendy saw my expression.


"It's a redtail," she said. "Is that okay?"


I hesitated. I had already made two exceptions, and was not about to make another. But Wendy had just done me a favor and was so generous about offering her help. The red-tailed hawk was staying only a couple of days and would require little care.


And I love redtails.


"It's okay," I said.


. . . The two finches were in the second flight. I opened the dividing door, stuck my head in to check them, and nearly lost my eye to the speeding goldfinch, who hurtled past me in a brilliant yellow blur. After pulling the door shut I opened the cardboard box and tipped it over slowly, allowing the redtail to trot out by himself. He looked around, climbed up the ramp, and settled onto the perch.


I headed back to the car for the robin but made a quick detour to the freezer in the garage. Bought to store the spillover from our small kitchen unit, it was filled with the usual assortment of foods except for the bottom drawer, which held two bags of large rats. They were a gift from a friend at the local zoo, who had received a big shipment of raptor food and knew I was starting a bird rehab operation.


"You say you're only doing songbirds," she had said, "but I know how that goes."


I pulled one of the rats out, carried it into the kitchen, locked it into a new freezer bag, and slid it into a plastic tub filled with hot water. I put the whole thing on top of the washing machine, which was hidden behind a set of folding doors, and covered it carefully with a dishtowel.


"Mommy!" shouted Skye [my 7-year-old daughter] from upstairs. "Is that you? Where is my blue sweatshirt?"


"It's me," I called back. "And it's folded on the dryer."


[Prone to racing through the house singing Christmas carols at the top of her lungs, no matter what the season,] I heard her thundering down the stairs, loudly caroling her way through the month of May. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la. . ."


I stopped. No, there was no way she'd notice. It was covered with a dishtowel.


"Tis the season to be. . ."


The song was interrupted by an ear-splitting scream. I bolted from the bathroom.


"What's the matter?" shouted [my husband] John, rushing down the stairs with [my 8-year-old son] Mac on his heels.


Skye stood rigid, eyes wide, staring at the top of the washing machine.


"There's a giant mouse up there!" she gasped. "And he's dead in a freezer bag!"


John and Mac followed her gaze and grimaced. Then, as one, all three turned and looked at me.


"Uhhh," I said, "It's, um, actually, it's a rat. It's food. For the redtail."


"Redtail!" said Mac. "Where'd you get a redtail?"


"Well!" I replied. "I brought the robin to the vet, and as it turned out. . ."


"Wait a minute!" John interrupted. "Where'd you get the rat?"


"From the freezer in the garage," I said.


John looked aghast. "There are rats in our freezer?" he said.


I decided to take the offensive. "They've been there for two months!" I shot back. "So I think it's a little late to start getting upset!"


"But what about the mouse?" wailed Skye.


Wildlife rehabilitation is a moral minefield, beginning with the food you serve the recuperating patients. Raptors, as well as many other birds, need to eat whole animals in order to stay healthy. You can buy mice and rats, but the cost is prohibitive. Although I would venture to say that while very few rehabilitators support animals testing, most who care for raptors receive mice and rats from companies that breed them to sell to laboratories.

The companies donate the extra or imperfect ones, already dead, to the rehabilitators. You can rail about animal testing and feel badly about the death of so many animals; thinking that the dead are the lucky ones doesn't help. But the bottom line is that without these donations, nursing certain birds back to health would be impossible.


It was something I had wrestled and come to terms with years ago. It was something I would eventually explain to my kids. But as we were all sitting around the kitchen table, under the watchful eye of the parrots, I felt the subject was something I could put off a bit longer.


"Listen," I said. "I know I said I was only taking songbirds, but sometimes things get a little complicated and I end up with, say, a redtail, and the redtail needs to eat a rat. So I get the rats that are already frozen from the zoo, and I just put them in the freezer and take them out when I need them. And they're all in bags and they're in a separate drawer in the freezer so you don't have to worry about cooties or anything."


"But where did the rats come from?" said Skye.


"From the zoo," I answered, knowing full well what she meant.


"But where did the zoo get them?" she pressed.


"I'm not sure," I said evasively. "I'll have to find out."


"Probably they were already dead when the zoo got them," said Mac. "And if they're dead, they're dead, and that's pretty much all there is to it."


"Do me a favor," said John. "Defrost them in the garage, all right?"


"The poor rat," said Skye. I think we should have a funeral and bury him."


"We are going to bury him," said Mac. "Inside the redtail."


Zack [the parrot] let out a jungle shriek.


"I couldn't have said it better," said John.


Phoebe Nest in Sheep Barn on 5-31-08
Bird nest in the sheep barn on 5-31-08


One of the things I like most about reviewing books is getting to 'meet' the authors. On Sunday, Suzie e-mailed me to say that she'd just stopped by my blog, thought the lambs were so cute, and now wished she lived on 240 acres and had lots of sheep. She also wanted to know if I needed anything from her for my Tuesday book tour stop.


I wrote back that I was loving her book, but, thanks to the 29 bouncing baby lambs—along with the usual array of unplanned, time sucking farm emergencies—I, ahem, hadn't actually finished it yet. But not to worry! I had a glowing review planned.


Then I spent the rest of the day afraid that she was ticked off because I'd signed up for the book tour and then hadn't even managed to read her whole book. Of course I needn't have worried. The next morning she replied:


If there's anyone on the planet who understands plans being de-railed by animals. . . it's me!


Suzie Gilbert has given us a very special gift by writing Flyaway, and I highly recommend it. Not only is it entertaining, but it's also filled with all sorts of fascinating information about birds. It's the kind of book you want to tell everyone you know about and keep a stack of copies on hand to give as gifts. I really hope that somebody makes it into a movie, because I bet it would be wonderful.


Phoebe Nest in Sheep Barn on 6-4-08
Bird nest in the sheep barn on 6-4-08


Yesterday I remembered about these baby bird photos I took in the sheep barn two years ago, and realized thay would be a perfect addition to this post. Except I didn't know what kind of birds they were. Suzie, of course, came to the rescue.


Hi Susan,
They're phoebes! I love them—they're little flycatchers, eat bugs on the wing, very beneficial to all. When they're adults they're brown with white chestst, and they bob their tails up and down all the time. They're incredibly cute and jaunty. I wait for ours to return every year, and they are always on time. I don't know how they do it.


Phoebe Nest in Sheep Barn on 6-8-08
Bird nest in the sheep barn on 6-8-08


And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check on the baby lambs and then see if I can sneak in a few minutes of reading time. I know just the place to sit.


Would you like to win a copy of Flyaway? To enter, leave a comment in this post and share something about birds, wildlife rescue or rehabilitation, or a special memory or story having to do with animals. If you can't think of anything, then simply tell us why you'd like to win this book!


The contest is over. Thanks for all the wonderful entries!


Related links:
Suzie Gilbert's website (includes a hawk release video)
Hawk Hill, an illustrated children's book by Suzie Gilbert

Other book reviews on Farmgirl Fare:
Keeping the Feast (and how food helped readers through tough times)
The Laws of Harmony (and readers share favorite food novels)
Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant (and what readers eat when alone)
Local Breads (and my favorite Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguette Recipe)
Cooking with Shelburne Farms (& Lamb Burgers w/ Red Pepper Olive Relish)
Comfort Food (readers share favorite comfort food stories & recipes)
The Cornbread Gospels (readers share cornbread memories & recipes)
The Artist's Palate (a beautiful cookbook for food and art lovers)
Falling Cloudberries (Greek Leg of Lamb & readers talk food/travel)
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (my favorite gardening book)

© Copyright 2010 FarmgirlFare.com, the flap happy foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and watching baby wild turkeys taking flying lessons out in the hayfield is one of those priceless memories you never forget.

56 comments:

  1. Does this count? We watched the movie Fly Away Home last night and loved it -- the true story of the 14-year old girl and her dad who taught a flock of orphan Canada geese to migrate from Ontario to North Carolina. Talk about animal rescue!

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  2. In the spring of 2004, a Daddy robin built a nest for his newly acquired mate along the ledge of our front window. At the time, my son was 3yo and my daughter was almost 1 1/2yo. We watched as they built the nest, and then one day three little blue eggs appeared. As I walked down the stairs each day (several times) I was eye-to-eye with that Mama bird. I admired her dedication; she sat with those eggs, loyal and with purpose. She was on that nest when I went to bed each night, and she was there when I woke up; and she was even there if I was awakened at 3am because someone had a bad dream. I became obsessed ... I watched as the babies broke through their shell. I watched them grow into big fluffy balls. I watched as they took their first flight. It's something that I will never forget ... oh, and my kids liked it too.

    I have challenged myself to read 100 books in 1 year and I would love to add this one to my list.

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  3. We live down the street from a bird rescue and I am signing up to train to become a volunteer :) I love watching my wrens build their nest, raise their babies, and teach them to fly every year! The sound of the babies cheeping never gets old.

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  4. I started bird rehabbing 20 years ago when I found a nestling on the lawn after a wind storm. BoPeep turned out to be a cowbird. He lived with us for 11 years. In the winter he stayed in his roomy cage in the dining room. In the spring I moved it to the front porch and left the door open so he could leave if he wanted to. He never did.

    When I found out I had to have a permit to keep a wild bird, son Bob (who was then 8) and I took classes at Wildlife Care. Soon we had a houseful of baby scrub jays, robins, and finches. BoPeep helped us raise them, but he would not tolerate them in HIS cage. I had to tuck a couple of baby robins in there once when I ran out of room. Bo was furious. Finally when I was feeding them, he landed on my shoulder, hopped down my arm, and scrunched himself in the nest, between the two big babies, demanding to be fed along with them.

    We learned so much rehabbing wild birds that when we got into raising show chickens in later years, there was no medical emergency we couldn't handle.

    Folks still bring us a bird or two, knowing we'll care for it, but we no longer have 45 jays to feed every day, nor a dozen finches hanging out in the trees by the back door expecting to be fed long after they've fledged. Those were such wonderfully chaotic days. I know I'm going to love Flyaway.

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  5. Wonderful review! This is definitely a book I would love. Memories... When I was maybe eight or nine, I found an injured baby robin which had, obviously, been left behind when the family flew the coop. Mama and Daddy weren't too happy about having a wild bird in the house, but I wailed until they relented. I made her a wonderful bed of soft straw and flannel in a sturdy box and kept it in my room. Daddy helped me feed her bits of fishing worms. The day finally came when she was big and strong. I released her into the wind and she flew away. I'm sure I must have named her but, for the life of me, can't remember what. Of course, it has been a few years...

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  6. The Sandhill Cranes just returned to Fairbanks this last weekend. A sure sign spring is here. I love watching them at Creamer's Field.

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  7. Last week we had 40 mph winds here in Wisconsin. A poor morning dove was sitting beneath my bird feeder and her wings kept being blown up into the air. At first I thought she had a broken wing but then I realized she just wasn't strong enough to hold her wings against her sides in that fierce wind.

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  8. when i was a kid, i was always finding hurt animals and birds and bringing them in to my bedroom to nurse them back to health. amazingly, i only lost one very small baby rabbit. to my poor mother's horror, you never knew what lurked behind that door. my proudest moment was when i watched the adult osprey i had found fly away to freedom. i had splinted his left wing, where he had been shot (BB gun), with two popsical sticks and surgical tape. it took two months and he had to live in the garage,but what an unbelievable thrill to see him go, so strong and healthy again.
    next to the "baby" cayman my dad eventually made me donate to the lincoln park zoo,that osprey was the best!(but that's another story.)

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  9. The book sounds amazing! We have a wonderful bird rehab center just south of Dallas, Rogers Wildlife. It's a dream of mine to have time to volunteer there. We rescued and rehabbed a baby squirrel last year, and it was a priceless experience for our 15 year old daughter. She would love to have our home become an animal rescue center! Thank you for all of the wonderful animal stories and photos, they truly make my day more enjoyable!
    Cheers, Andrea

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  10. When I was around 10 years old my family was visiting my grandparent's farm in Southern Utah. During our explorations around the farm we came across a nest of starling chicks inside of my grandfather's gas pump. When the nest came to the attention of my grandfather, to my horror, he wanted to 'get-rid' of them. I couldn't let him do it so I smuggled the nest into a shoebox with holes punched in it and started digging for worms so we could feed them on the way home. Once we got home I called my Aunt Maryanne who had some experience rehabilitating wild birds for the Tracy Aviary and she told me in order to feed them regularly I should soak dog food in water. The four little starlings were religiously fed and cleaned up after by myself and kept in my room until they had grown their flight wings and were ready to be released. They took their first true flights in our backyard. Ever since then we have always had a family of starlings living at my parent's house.

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  11. Many years ago (1980) my Husband and I were in Boise ID and found a small, 4 inches or so, Raptor looking bird in a parking lot. It didn't even attempt to flyaway as I scooped it up. We located a Refuge in town and someone came and picked it up for rehab. They said it was a American Kestrel. We both love birds, as does my Sister in Montana,and I would love to win this book for her.

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  12. That sounds like such a neat book. I don't have any "rehabber" experiences but it brings back memories of spending time with my grandma on her farm in north Missouri talking long walks and her pointing out different kinds of birds that we would see along the way.

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  13. One morning, when I was a little girl, my Mother called for me, but I didn't answer. She frantically began to search for me and finally found me outside. When she discovered me she heard me talking and talking to what appeared to be no one. She said, "Jenny, who are you talking to?" I responded in my cute little girl voice, "I'm just talking to the birdies!"

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  14. I used to volunteer for a wildlife rescue center and took care of various animals such as birds of prey, squirrels, rabbits, opossums, flying squirrels, and other various animals. It was hard and rewarding.

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  15. My neighbors keep doves, and I love hearing their cooing. Apparently one escaped a few years ago, and someone found it and brought it back, because they knew where it belonged - how many doves do you find in the middle of the city?

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  16. My sister just started volunteering at a wild bird rescue center in Texas. I really look forward to hearing her stories!

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  17. She sounds FABULOUS and with a heart as big as the world of birds. Thank heavens for people like Suzie Gilbert.

    For many years I wrote a local nature column and because of that I was often contacted to help rescue hurt or ill birds. We've transported pelicans, loons, hummers, gulls, you name it, but nothing as in depth as what she does.

    This book is a definite MUST HAVE, and may I also recommend Birdology by Sy Montgomery. I am reading right now about rescuing hummingbirds.

    Thanks so much for this great posting and wonderful tip for a read.

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

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  18. Sounds like a really fun book. I'd love to read it!

    When I was a child, my best friend found a baby mockingbird that had fallen out of its nest. She took care of it (with a lot of help from her mother). They named it Crissy. I remember we fed it mealworms and kept it in a shoebox in a back room of their house. They left a radio on so it wouldn't feel too lonely. When it was old enough, they let it go in their yard. Afterwards, whenever we heard a mockingbird they'd say "That's Crissy!"

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  19. We're picking up our first two hives of bees, and during the preparations I was talking to my daughter about the only time I've ever been stung. When I was a kid I saw a hornet floating in the pool. Poor thing it couldn't get out. I'd save it! I carefully got it onto a stick and pulled it to the edge, up into my hand--and ye-ouch! He stung me!! Ah well, it wasn't that bad. Lucky for me he decided once was enough!

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  20. Over the past year I've grown a big interest in birds, but my favorite animal story comes from way back when I was maybe 8 or 10 and vacationing at grandma's house. I was out scattering vegetables for the deer that would often feed in their yard when I was approached by a fawn, all spotty and brown and big-eyed. It was close enough to touch, but I didn't even dare to move! Soon it must have sensed its mother's tension, so it bolted; nonetheless, oh...it was a perfect moment.

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  21. What a wonderful sounding book! I'm a birder, just looking and recording, so I don't have any rescue stories. I do remember when I was a small child, a robin used to nest on the window ledge at my grandparents' house. One day a baby fell out of the nest, and when my grandpa went to put it back, he got attacked by the Momma! Boy was she mad!

    I'd love to be in the running for this book, if you please.

    Thanks so much!

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  22. boisvertzaza4/20/2010 6:42 PM

    It was May, 11 years ago, beautiful day above the 45th. All doors were open on that warm day (one of the first that year) when i heard a loud buzz and bangs in the window : bumblebee i thought. No, it was a hummingbird. I took it in my hands, showed it to the children and released it outside. the following week, my 7 years old son came back with school claycraft : two Star Wars spaceships (don't ask)and a hummingbird for me.(I'll send you the picture by e-mail)

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  23. I'm excited to hear about this book. My town has tons of very tall very old pine trees and other mature trees. As a result, also lots of birds but we're known as a roosting community for a flock of about 30 buzzards. Then, this spring, I noticed a nesting pair of some variety of hawk in my neighbor's back yard. I saw them gathering nesting materials a couple of days in a row. My most fervent wish is to be around and actually see the fledglings when they start to fly but, alas, most unlikely given I have to go to work every day and miss all the best things going on in my own back yard. Drat!

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  24. Can't wait to read the book - thanks for sharing it! I have fond memories of raising baby birds as a kid, sneaking them into school when they needed to be fed during the day. One was a robin that showed up at my Dad's apartment each spring for several years after I'd "flown" away!

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  25. This book looks absolutely incredible... we have always had dogs, but started out with a bird as well - a very sweet cockatiel. I was pretty young when she died, and always regretted that we didn't get another one. The bonds that people can have with their pets (or rescues) always amazes me. I remember going to see the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and when he describes the last time he held one of the birds - the sense of thankfulness and love that he felt from this wild animal - I burst into tears in the theatre. Powerful stuff.

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  26. Now THAT was a phenomenal post (if you were ever doubting your ability to be fresh & interesting, just look at the variety and length of peoples' comments) Love the excerpt and the photos. Would they be what we call wagtails in the UK? Sound similar although phoebe is a cute name (and one worth remembering for when lambing reaches the 'P' year!)

    So, did you buy the 2 seat glider?!

    (Maniacal laughter, how I recall...)X

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  27. I would love to win the book. It is perfect for my sister. When we were growing up she would make us stop by road kill to move them off the road. SHe continues to this day to be someone who rescues birds and other small animals. we even tried to rescue a raccoon one time. Her daughter grew up to be a vet tech and is the same way.
    I understand this isn't about me but my sister. I know she would like this book.I myself am a bird watcher and love to feed the birds and see how many different kinds of birds come to the feeder

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  28. I'm an amateur birdwatcher in the heart of downtown, and I collect birds nests too! I love reading about birding and I can't wait to move to a more rural setting to really indulge my hobby! :) Love your blog!

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  29. When my niece was 4 yrs old, my husband and I took her to see the first SHREK movie... At one point in the film, a blue bird sings such a high note that it explodes... and the theatre just ROARED with laughter...I looked over at my niece, who had one of those "if looks could kill" looks on her face. she waited for the theatre to stop laughing, stood up, crossed her arms and shouted out.." I HOPE YOU ALL KNOW AN ANIMAL WAS JUST HARMED IN THE FILMING OF THIS MOVIE!" I wanted to burst out laughing until I saw that she was crying... I knew then the rest of the movie would be WAY too traumatic for such a small animal lover--even the animated kind.

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  30. Oh my goodness...I got my morning laugh reading the excerpts from this book, especially the part about the 'freezer rat'. That was so funny!! :)
    I have many animal rescue stories as my kids when they were young used to bring home all kinds of animals that needed help like cats, birds and turtles. But the recent one for me was last year. I had a steel thistle bird feeder and it had rained the day before. I went outside to walk in the yard and in one of the holes of the feeder I seen a bird sitting on the perch with his head stuck in the feeder hole. I couldn't believe my eyes and he was struggling to get his head out. At first I thought I could gently get his neck out but to no avail. I ran into the house to get a screw driver and by then was praying out loud to the Lord to help me and all the while the little yellow finch kept struggling. I reached for the feeder and set it on the grass while I was trying to get the screws out and the bird kept struggling even more and blood started showing up a little on the hole. By then I was frantic and my hands were shaking so bad trying to get all the screws out (6 to be exact) and not have the bird break his neck. I kept wielding that screw driver and praying for God's help. Finally all screws out and I pulled the two halves apart and the little thing flew away in almost good shape. Needless to say I threw that feeder in the trash. The rain had wet the seed and it had built up around the hole and the seed wasn't easy to get out. The bird stuck its head in too far and then could not pull it out because the seed had dried and was like concrete. That's my story and I wouldn't want to do it again. :)

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  31. Sarah Taylor4/21/2010 7:37 AM

    I was taking a walk and heard a pileated woodpecker call, so I started to follow the calls to find him. Finally he flew across the road and started to drum on a dead tree within view of the road. I watched him for half an hour. One of my favorite birding experiences ever.

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  32. Great excerpt! I was pleased to realize that I recognized the name of the veterinarian. Wendy Westrom is currently working at Cortlandt Animal Hospital in Cortlandt, NY. I've been bringing my dogs to see her for the past 10 years and she's still got a great sense of humor. Right now she's helping to heal my 10 yr old husky mix from surgery to repair a torn tendon. She's a great doctor even if my dogs aren't always pleased to see her!

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  33. Both my husband and I love birds. We have provided feeders, planted bushes and trees for food and cover and provided plenty of water in winter and summer with an eye to the welfare of wild birds. Over the years we have enjoyed watching their lives unfold in our garden. My favorite baby bird story involves a pair of Carolina wrens who built thier nest in a plastic grocery bag that my husband left hanging on our back deck. He had used the bag to carry some tools to a repair on the deck. He is famous for leaving things behind when distracted. We usually find the abandoned items pretty quickly, but in this case the bag and tools were "lost" long enough for the broody wren to decide that we no longer needed them and would not be back. She built her towering hive of twigs inside the bag on top of tools and settled in. We did not have the heart to move her although we worried about the safety of her choice of locations. It looked more like an Oriole nest dangling from the deck inside its plastic casing. Anyway, it worked! She produced five youngsters who spent several hours hopping about our deck one morning before their parents dragged them off to more wild climes.

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  34. This book makes me think of my mom. From the time she was a little girl she was bringing home all kinds of injured animals for her doctor father to heal. Luckily, a vet lived just down the street, and would help out. She had such a deep passionate love for all animals. She was always rescuing an animal. The most interesting was the great horned owl when I was just a little girl. She always forged a deep attachment with her pets, who always had a story. When my mom died of cancer, her beloved horse died later the same day, and we thought her cat would die too. The cat pulled all of her fur off her chest, and was obviously grieving for the loss of her person. Suzie Gilbert sounds like a kindred spirit to my mother. People with a that kind of deep passion for animals are so special. Thanks for sharing such a great looking book.

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  35. I love to bird watch and so does my (almost) 2 year old daughter. I'm currently teaching her the names of some of the local visitors to our garden and yard.

    Thank you for the giveaway! I, too, love books...

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  36. Every spring for the last five or so years, a bird has been trying to set up housekeeping in our mailbox, which is made of brass and is right next to our front door.

    And every year, until this one, something has foiled the plans: Someone missed the sign directing people to the side door and disturbed the nest, or a substitute mail carrier swept out the nest's foundation twigs--several days running--and frustrated the bird. Once a carrier dumped a full mail delivery right on top of the nest.

    So this year, Mama or Papa Bird got smart and--
    (A) Built the whole nest in one morning instead of over the course of several days, and
    (B) Did it on a Sunday, so there was no mail carrier to contend with!

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  37. I would love to read this book I have a sun conure (small parrot) myself and she is 2 years old now and very much spoiled. When the phone rings she yells hello and she calls us mama and papa and say's papa work when My hubby isn't here. We also have a 6# pomerainan And if you tell them to turn around Tolo my dog and Shasta my bird will turn around at the same time it is so cute. My children are all raised now so I have time to spend pampering my animals. Would love to read this book!!! Your baby lambs are adorable I love your blog.If I win the book my e-mail address is mabear22001@yahoo.com

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  38. Several years ago a blue jay with most of the top half of her beak broken off showed up at my bird feeder. After watching her try unsuccessfully to eat from the feeder, I put some birdseed in a deep cup and set it near the bird feeder. It allowed her to plunge her beak far enough into the seeds to be able to pick some up. She ate this way for several weeks, then somehow lost most of her bottom beak as well. After that, she was once again able to eat normally.

    She seemed to understand that I had helped because she stayed near our house for the next several years, always nesting in a shrub near my garden and was not bothered by my interest in her babies. She gave me a new appreciation of blue jays.

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  39. We put an owl box high up in one of the eucalyptus trees, hoping one would take up residence and help us out with our gopher problem. We never did get any owls but this year a young American kestrel was hanging about. Then we saw two of them and after reading up on them realized they may have moved into the box. Sadly, I found the female in one of the watering troughs. She had drowned. I had my son climb back up to check the box and sure enough, there were three kestrel eggs. My husband sent me right away to get an incubator. Unfortunately the eggs didn't make it. Fortunately the remaining kestrel found another mate and they are back in the nest box. I'm looking forward to seeing the youngsters fledge.

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  40. OMG This review is a RIOT! And that rat scene!! I live in a city and used to feed the finches that came by, but once I got a cat I stopped that. The only birds I feed now are hummingbirds. But I could totally see how Suzie went from rescuing songbirds to rescuing just about all birds. :) She must be a wonderful person to know!

    Thanks for being on this tour and for your great review!

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  41. Wonderful book review ~ Being a huge animal/bird lover, Suzie Gilberts book sounds like something I would love. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity. As a child I always had a budgie but none of them spoke. When I had children, their first pet was a budgie too & over the years we had a few. Jacob was the exception when it came to speaking with an amazing vocabulary who had quite a fan club :-)There is nothing like birdsong INSIDE as well as outside a home ♥

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  42. Throught the years I've had my share of experiences with birds. I owned two budgies of my own and have always enjoyed watching them. Some years ago, I got to rush a gull to the local zoo. After hearing a VERY loud thud, running outside the office building to see what I was, we realized the gull had flown into the mirrored windows and possibly broken a wing. I scooped him into a paper ream box and wisked him the 3 miles to the zoo for them to take care of.
    Then, last Mother's Day (maybe Easter), I noticed the blue bird house leaning horribly. Knowing that there were babies in there, and seeing the parents all in an uproar, I decided to go out a "right" it. When I got there, I realized the house was full of snake. I opened the hatch and began pulling it out, not even knowing then whether or not it was poisonous (turned out it wasn't). After a long struggle, I finally got it to leave the house (although it was sporting large lumps which I knew to be babies). It left one baby behind, tired and breathless. I don't believe the parents returned, and sadly the baby didn't make it.

    I love birds. I love rescuing animals (did I ever tell you about saving the baby possums?). Pick me! Pick me!

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  43. When I was about 9, we moved to a few acres in California's Central valley. Every spring clouds of birds would nest in the pine trees that my grandparents had planted in the backyard, mostly Brewer's blackbirds, scrub jays, the ocassional mocking bird. And every time we had a strong wind I would race our beloved calico cat, Spicy, to reach the baby birds that would fall to the ground. Sometimes I even made it in time, and my dad would help me mix up a little peanut butter watered down enough to go through a dropper. They were so incredibly fragile, sometimes they were so young you could actually see through their skin, pretty gross. But I couldn't stop scooping up those poor little things, no matter how many times I faced the inevitable failures. Yes, I'm afraid most of them died. BUT...one time we actually suceeded. And seeing that scruffy little scrub jay fly off made all the other times pale in comparison!

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  44. We have 2 parrots (1 is a rescue) and a dog (also a rescue), and over the years I've brought home more stray animals than I can count. Most got a vet check, a bit of training, and went on to a new home. Some stayed around until they met their maker, but all of them were loved and cared for. People mostly make their own misery, but animals have no choice about what happens to them. Those who do good works for animals are very special people.

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  45. I am a sucker for all animals and have always come home with a very needy *fill in the blanks* that needs attention/care/rehab. I learned soooo much doing research trying to figure out how to care for the various creatures (pre-internet), and although I can't remember much about my childhood - I can remember everything about that!
    Thanks
    Tammy
    tlstickland (at) comcast (dot) net

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  46. I said - with such confidence - that I WILL love reading this book because I intended to buy it. And I just did, for my Kindle through your link to Amazon. Thanks for the "Heads Up."

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  47. I'm sitting in my suburban bungalow watching a new crop of birds flock to the new feeders in my Dogwood tree. Our EarthScouts made feeders the other day out of recycled materials and apparently the birds heartily approve of them. My favorite are the sweet, shy tufted titmouse, but I'm also excited to see the flagrant colors of the cardinals and goldfinches!
    I think this is a book I would love, although my family may get worried ;). At 800 sq feet, I'm not sure that our house can handle the wildlife!

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  48. once when i was a little girl i found a baby duck (possibly goose) in the front yard of out house. being that we are not near a body of water and there was not an adult duck in sight, this was quite a mystery. i cherished that duckling as if it were my child, I had always been dreaming of a basket of puppies or kittens being anonymously left on our doorstep by some unfortunate soul who couldnt care for such a brood. but this wandering little duck would suffice my pet need. I lined a cat carrier with towels and created a home. we had no idea what a baby duck ate so we did some reasearch. we went to a pet store and they gave us some suggestion, which we bought, and the duck hated. what i do remember it eating was canned cat food. i brought this bird everywhere with me, including church services, where its peeping sounds of worship joined with out own. Unfortunately, that bird did die, i awoke one morning and it was gone. I wish i had known of a bird sactuary like suzies.

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  49. I would love to win the book!

    I'm not a rehabber, but my most precious bird experience was the year i "tamed" a wild turkey who frequented my yard. I had him eating sunflower seed out of my hand, at at my feet. It was really very special.

    I've also had chickadees grab seed from my outstretched hand and of course i love to watch the hummers at the feeder.

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  50. This book sounds fantastic. I grew up in a home with a father who was a science teacher and avid bird watcher. He did every bird count, nest count, etc. We occasionally housed injured birds until he could get them to a rehabber. He had a large collection of dead birds and other things in the freezer to pass along to others interested or for taxidermy purposes I suppose. The rats in the freezer story cracked me up AND reminded me of my childhood somewhat.

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  51. When i volunteered at a Nature Museum, the local bird rehab place would come by every month. I loved looking at the vultures as they spread out their wings and sunned.

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  52. My life is punctuated by birds. My parents loved them and so we always "watched" for them. We lived in a suburb of a big city (Toronto)but the beauty of the city is that it's surrounded by ravines. And because my parents loved to garden our yard became a haven. Growing up I saw warblers and thrushes, finches and orioles. And once we had an endangered loggerhead shrike who impaled his prey on our hawthorne bush. To this day, I'm always amazed when people can't identify birds. Then I remember that not everyone had parents as wonderful as mine.

    I'm lshin116 (at) hotmail (dot) com

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  53. my quick story is not of a bird but of a squirrel. My son found one at the bottom of a tree after a storm. so he brought it home, called around and got information on how to feed it, and he grew up and lived in our backyard. I was nice he would come up to the door to say hi.
    I guess if i don't win the book I'll have to go out and find one to read.

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  54. A couple summers ago, a red-bellied woodpecker hit our backdoor and seemed to be injured. My daughter and I got him into a shoe box and set it in the shade. Then I spent the afternoon trying to find a place to take him for rehab. He did finally come to and flew away on his own.
    quiltlady59 at fuse dot net

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  55. The past few years I've become a backyard birder. I'm now a regular at the local "bird store." I love watching the birds and I adore hearing them sing and chirp all day long while I'm puttering around the house.

    My favorite bird visitor is a handsome flicker.

    I live in Colorado Springs, and I found out yesterday - the hummers have arrived!

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  56. I love to win the book! I really enjoy your blog. Your stories and photos are great!

    I recently helped these critters out!

    http://joansblackthumbgardening.blogspot.com/2010/03/bird.html

    http://joansblackthumbgardening.blogspot.com/2010/04/snake-lives.html

    http://joansblackthumbgardening.blogspot.com/2010/04/flying-squirrel-comes-to-town.html

    I'm not a very good writer. I started my blog to share things that I thought might be interesting to my friends and family.

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