Today we learned that nature study can be sad. Yesterday evening Caleb found a young meadowlark fluttering in and out of the tall grass near the cow pasture. When he caught it he took it to show Allie. Allie discovered that it had a broken wing and looked as if it had had a brief run in with one of the cats. They immediately brought it in to me with hopes of patching up the young bird's wing. I was right in the middle of fixing dinner, but having a tender heart, I got down a small box to put it in and gave it a dish of water and a bit of parakeet seed (desparate times call for desparate measures).
After dinner we got out our handy copy of The Handbook of Nature Study and read about Meadowlarks. We quickly learned that they enjoy a diet of grasshoppers and other creepy crawlers, not seeds(oops), and that they are out of the nest in only 10-12 days. We did not read whether or not the baby bird is still dependent on it's parent for food. Allie got her bug jar and proceeded to go outside to rustle up some nourishment for our new feathered friend. While she was outdoors, I fashioned a new home out of a large box and a piece of screening. I thought is was nice, but the bird was scared and kept flying up and running itself into the screen. Allie returned with one grasshopper (not much smaller than the bird) and three pill bugs. The latter was not on the list from "The Handbook", but they were easy to catch.
We dropped the bugs into the box, but the bird was not interested. We only managed to further frighten it. The meadowlark was bright eyed and energetic and appeared to have no other injuries, so we decided to leave it alone until morning; maybe it would calm down and eat. Morning came and all of the bugs were still intact and crawling about the box. The bird was chirping and still very frightened. I feared it would injure itself further if left in our care, so I made the decision that we would let it go. This was not popular. Allie took the box back to the tree line on our property and found a spot where the meadowlark would be able to jump up to some low branches for safety. Many tears were shed in our home this morning. Yes, nature study can be sad.