Yesterday afternoon. I’m walking along the lakefront at Washington Park. My plans were to capture photos of the ducks and geese and swans and other waterfowl that call the lake home. I was also testing out my Leica M3 camera, along with a pack of AGFA Scala 200 slide film, so I won’t see the developed product for at least a month. I can live with that.
And then I heard it.
Chirping and tweeting at a frantic pace. The fluttering of wings, but no flight in the air.
I looked behind me. And in the bushes along the Albany Plan of Union road in Washington Park… was a small songbird. He tried to fly away, but his foot was tangled in a mess of tree branch and fishing line.
I walked over. The bird was frantically flapping its wings, but to no avail. His foot was lacerated with the ligature marks of clear fishing line. I tried to untangle the line, but I couldn’t get the strands apart.
I looked around. A man in a lime-neon T-shirt was standing by the lakehouse. One chance in a thousand. I walked over.
“Hey, do you work here?”
“Yes,” he said.
“This bird is tangled over here by the bushes. He’s caught up in some loose discarded fishing line. Can you help cut him free?”
“Let’s take a look.” With that, he and I walked back to the bush. I heard no rustling from the bush, and for a moment I thought that the bird may have freed himself.
But then the branch shook. The bird tried to fly away, but the fishing line anchored his leg to the tree branch.
A nearby woman who saw the bird’s plight said, “Oh that poor robin, I hope he’s all right.”
Oh great. A robin. Of all the birds to get tangled up, it would have to be a robin. Holy Iverhill, Batman…
Yet without a second thought or a single hesitation, the parks worker removed a small knife from his pocket and began cutting the fishing line.
And for all of you who are right now saying to me, “Chuck, it’s a great story, but you know the rules of the Internet – pics or it didn’t happen.”
Well, this pic was NOT taken with film.
A few moments later, the parks worker – whose name was Arthur – cut the final strands of fishing line. The exhausted bird fell to the ground. Arthur’s good deed completed, he took a couple of handshakes and went back to the lakehouse.
I stayed near the injured robin. The bird’s leg was red and limp. The bird itself lay on the ground, barely breathing or moving. I stayed nearby. Other birds gathered near the shoreline – a duck, a goose, other waterfowl – they swam by as if nothing unusual occurred.
I took some pictures of the birds along the shore. One eye on the birds in the lake. The other eye on the robin. And for what were minutes, but may have seemed like hours, the robin lay prone on the grass. I was too late, I thought. If I had only gotten there sooner, if I had only kept a knife in my pocket, if I had only –
chirp tweet chirp
A rustle of feathers.
The robin was standing… on its one good leg. A couple of hops. Then, it flew – tentatively at first, but then faster, across the shore to a nearby tree. It landed on a branch. And that was the last time I saw the robin.
Do I know whether the bird survived for more than two minutes or two hours or two days? No.
But if I hadn’t called Arthur the parks worker over to help free the bird from the fishing line… and if he hadn’t been able to cut the bird free from those foul restraints…
Then every second after that moment is a bonus second in that little bird’s life.