Bob the Bird-Saver

To the Rescue Again

By Peter D. McQuade

If you frequent Boise’s Ridge to Rivers trails, you just might encounter Bob. He’s the one who’ll stop at some quiet spot and just stand there, silently watching and listening to the birds, with an artist’s eyes and ears—for up to three-quarters of an hour. He knows all their songs, their colors, their habits. You name it: robins, finches, tanagers, meadowlarks, killdeers, mountain bluebirds, red-tailed hawks . . . Spending a lot of time in the wild—as well as at home, poring over Audubon and Peterson field guides—will do that to you. Bob’s my brother, five years my elder, ages wiser, and though he won’t say it outright, he’s a rescuer of birds. But it wasn’t always so.

In the spring of 1962, when he was eleven, he grabbed his Daisy pump BB gun and set off for a bird-hunting expedition along Crane Creek. Game was plentiful: chickadees, house sparrows, and a finch or two. Hunter’s luck shone on him that day: he soon bagged a robin-sized bird. But within minutes, his sense of victory wavered and gave way to deep second thoughts about the irreversibility of what he’d done. He buried his prize under a rock and went home.

That evening, in the melancholy of sunset, Bob shared his secret misgivings with our mother, who commiserated, even while delivering the coup de grâce to his bird-hunting aspirations. She was musing, really, perhaps not even intending to be heard: “That beautiful sunrise we had this morning was the last one that bird would ever see.” It was a case of words being devastating and transforming at the same time, and so was born Bob the bird-saver.

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