I was meeting my husband and sons at Joemma State Park for a boat day. Waiting for them to swing by on the water to pick me up, I sat on the dock watching the purple martin fledglings flutter around. I figured I would just snap a few boring photos of the little birds while waiting, knowing I would most likely delete them later because I wouldn’t be satisfied.
I watched a couple and their daughter come onto the docks. The woman had a little bird perched on her finger as she walked from the paved parking lot, across the pier, and then down to the floating docks.
I tried not to gawk but the animal lover in me wants to “ooh” and “aah” at every four-legged and feathered being in sight.
The woman noticed my jaw drop followed by a huge smile. I couldn’t believe she was out here, walking nonetheless with a wild bird on her finger neither tethered nor caged. The bird was free to take flight in the salt air — but it didn’t.
I walked over to talk with her, but she didn’t speak English well. Her husband helped interpret our conversation. Her name was Tranh. She, her husband and their daughter had visited the park during a record-breaking heat wave the week prior. One of the purple martins had fallen out of its bird house while they were there. The floating dock was very hot, and the bird couldn’t fly yet. The family didn’t want to leave the bird there, as it would surely die in the heat.
Tranh decided to take the bird home until it could fly.
They cared for this bird and fed it like his parents would — with insects. A few days later the bird was flying around the house. They decided to return the fledgling to the very place they found him, all the way back to the dock at Joemma Beach. They certainly could have released the little bird near Seattle, where they lived, but didn’t. They brought this beautiful, healthy, purple martin back to its home.
Tranh coaxed it to fly, but it just kept looking back at her. Multiple attempts were made to get this little one in the air.
There were dozens of martins flying all around, chatter everywhere. The bird just looked up at all of them but seemed uncertain. It looked back at Tranh, and I thought for sure it would fly now. But it didn’t.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour, but realistically only about 10 minutes, Tranh gave the little bird a gentle scratch and it took flight. I stopped shooting photos at that point just to enjoy the moment. This little bird wasn’t initially welcomed back into its colony; it had to fend off a few aggressors initially. They eventually worked everything out and the rescued bird actually went inside what was possibly its previous nesting house. At that moment, all was well.
Meanwhile, my boys showed up, grumbling because mom was talking, mom was birdwatching, and mom was delaying their boating. They may never appreciate this story but I hope you do. I hope that you enjoy these pictures as much as I did taking them. I hope you can feel the pure love that was shown to one tiny little bird and that one human made a difference.
Just when my faith in humanity was dwindling, I met Tranh and her martin.
Some may call it human kindness; others may claim divine intervention. Regardless, I sure hope to see him return next spring.
Tina McKail is a photographer on the KP News staff. She lives in Vaughn.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS