Friday, August 05, 2005

The Bird Lady of Altamonte Springs

My niece, Ariana, is going home to Germany today. It will be time to go back to "schule" soon. She's been stateside for 6 weeks now. She spent time with her father in St. Louis and my sister in Houston, who is there due to my brother-in-law's leukemia treatment. She came to the Orlando area to visit with her grandparents, my brother, his wife, and me. My sister-in-law, Lindsay, took Ariana shopping and did other "auntly" things. Lindsay volunteers to help feed and treat sick and otherwise defenseless birds of all kinds with the almost world famous Bird Lady of Altamonte Springs, just north of Orlando. Everyone brings Ann Young, the bird lady, these flying creatures to nurse back to health. Her house is a veritable sanctuary. She does this for the birds. Birds do not pay, so donations are encouraged and greatly appreciated. She and Lindsay have been friends for a long time. The Orlando Sentinel does writeups on her every few years.

Wednesday is one of Lindsay's days to volunteer. Ariana was staying with her and my brother that night, so she went along to help feed the birds. My parents and I were going to take Ariana out to dinner later, so I went to pick her up after work. Lindsay said that early in the evening, she and Ann were going to release some nurtured swifts into the wild. These swifts are chimney dwellers. It's where Chinese 'bird's nest soup' comes from, the nests of these birds. They also nestle in the hollows of trees. They feed off mosquitos and other winged insects, so they are great to have around in sub-tropical areas like Florida. Who needs mosquitos? Some people will bring the baby birds to Ann instead of destroying them as they clean out their chimneys due to the noises that can be a little on the pesky side. They might have fallen out of a nest and someone was there to save them. In the winter months, they migrate to South America, Peru, in particular, to avoid the colder climates. Lindsay asked me if we would be back from dinner in time to watch Ann release the birds. I told her, yes, I will do my best.

Ariana and I drove up to the Seminole Community College parking lot around 7:30. There is a large open field adjacent to it. I asked Ann why is it better to release them here instead of anywhere else they might find refuge? She said that this way, if they fall, we are there to collect them up to try again. There is plenty of open space. Oh, I see. Well, what happens if they just don't fly away at all? And why today? She said these birds were about 5 weeks old and if you don't release them, since they are wild, they will become lethargic and die. We will try another day, but, if that doesn't work they must be euthanized. They will never make it, then. Well, we waited. We saw birds of different kinds, but, no swifts. We talked about other types. This woman knows her birds. I wondered why she wanted to wait for other swifts and she said that they will come and fly these little ones to the safety of their own nests. They will protect them and train them to fly home into the chimneys. We waited. Still no swifts. "Well, good luck, little birdies, you might have to be on your own," she told them. She picked the strongest one out of the cage and as she kissed its little forehead, said "Fly away, little one. Be strong!" Up, up and away it went. Within seconds of flight, three other swifts approached the newly freed bird and flew around it. They came out of nowhere. Nowhere at all. Then all of a sudden, they took it under their wings. They all kept flying around and around us as she released the remaining birds one by one. It was truly a remarkable sight to watch nature in action protecting their own.

After they were freed, I asked her, " Where did these other swifts come from?"

"Sometimes, God answers your prayers. Sometimes He doesn't."

Around and around they flew, until off they went, together, to the protection of their new found nests. Ariana and I marveled. This was something we could never learn from reading a book. We truly appreciated the power of God and nature and the amazing heart and grace of the Bird Lady of Altamonte Springs.

Ann Young can be reached at:
Ann Young Wild Bird Refuge
205 Robin Road
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
Her phone number is 407-339-2900.

For more information on swifts, please go to: SWIFTS.

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