On Storms, Perching and Preening

We had quite a storm here Sunday night, called a Derecho, a term I was not familiar with.  Have you ever heard of a derecho?  Apparently this storm caused triple the number of customers to lose power than during the tornado that hit here two months ago.  I’ve lived here about 60 years and I’ve sure never experienced anything like it and hope I never again have to.  Here’s what the Nashville Electric Service (NES) had to say about it:

On May 3, 2020, two months to the day that Nashville suffered a historic tornado touchdown, a derecho struck the same area. A derecho is a long-lived line of thunderstorms packing intense, hurricane-force wind gusts. The Nashville International Airport reported winds as high as 71mph during the height of the storm. That’s the 5th fastest wind gust recording since the airport has tracked that data. Almost immediately, more than 131,000 NES customers lost power due to snapped trees and downed power lines. Both the 911 and NES outage phone lines were overwhelmed with callers reaching out for assistance. This will go down as one of the worst storms to hit the Nashville area.

The NES operations team mobilized and as soon as it was safe to go out and begin making the necessary repairs, crews set out. Twenty four hours after the derecho entered Middle Tennessee, nearly 50,000 customers once again had power. In Mayor John Cooper’s press conference on the morning of May 4, NES President and CEO, Decosta Jenkins announced that total power restoration could take up to a week or two. Other utilities in the area were also hit hard by the storms, but contract crews from other states are helping with restoration efforts; however, COVID-19 and the widespread damage across the state are affecting the contract resources available.

This storm impacted our entire electrical system, and it will take some time to get all power restored. NES is asking for everyone’s patience as crews work around the clock to make repairs, especially since more storms could pop up at any moment. NES is very empathetic to our customers that are impacted and we want to ensure you we will get power back in Music City as soon as possible.

Donelson, my hometown, looked like another war zone, with trees and power lines down everywhere.  God Bless the electrical crew members and many thanks to those in neighboring states (Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky) who came here to offer assistance.  And during a pandemic at that!  Here in my little suburb, east of Nashville, we got winds of 80+ miles an hour!  I think I experienced just a taste of what it is like to be in a hurricane.  Add lightning and thunder and torrential rain to that, and it was quite the little storm.  And we had similar storms again the very next night, with winds of 61 mph.  Our city police issued an alert for everyone to please stay home and NOT travel as power lines and trees were down everywhere blocking roadways.  NES reported another 15,000 outages with that one.  I don’t know what’s up with the weather, but Nashville has taken a beating.

We had multiple limbs down in our yard and lots and lots of sticks to pick up.  Our power did go out but only for about 45 minutes.  Our screened in porch actually had standing water in it and leaves were stuck to all the window screens.   I told hubby since there were so many tree branches down in the yard, I’d take advantage of them.  I decided it was a good time to have a lesson on perching for the bluebird babies.  It was a nice sunny day Monday and so out we went with them.

You can’t really tell from the photos, but of these three bluebirds, there is a large size bird, a medium sized bird, and a runt bird.  I mentioned one bird died during the fall of the tree, and he was quite a bit larger than these three.  I learned that bluebird eggs usually hatch one at a time and and usually one egg hatches per day.  So I’m guessing the deceased bird hatched on the first day and the little runt hatched on the 4th day.  The runt bird does not seem to be able to use his left foot well and his little toes seem to just club up in a wadded mess.  Perching of course is very important to a bird, so I worry about him/her.  The runt bird also has not been feeding well for two days.  It will gape, but then does strange things with its neck, and its mouth becomes a moving target.  It’s been a real challenge to get food down that one.  I’m beginning to think this baby is not going to make it.  I’m afraid I don’t know much about bird physical therapy.  I’m hoping with time, there will be healing.  Hubby and I wonder if there is some neurological damage that occurred during the fall from the tree.  Maybe so.  But the perching lesson went well and they learned all about balance that day and learned to flap their wings to keep their balance.  The largest bird learned to hop off the branch, hop back on, hop off, etc.  He was quite smitten with himself.  I tried various sized branches and they preferred the largest branch.  They don’t seem to have good grasping skills yet and wouldn’t stay on the smaller pine branch.

May 4, 2010

May 4, 2010. The runt is on the left. The biggest bird is on the far right and is more advanced in everything, including standing straight and tall.

May 4, 2020. The runt is on the left.  Note the left foot which stays curled. The red color is not blood, it’s just the sun shining on some thin skin in that location.

While up on the large branch, I also, for the first time, noted preening behavior in the largest bird, which I was happy to see. Preening is when a bird straightens and cleans its feathers with its beak.  Two nights ago, I also noticed all three birds began sleeping with their little heads laid back on their backs (contrary to what many people think, birds don’t really tuck their heads under their wings when they sleep, they just lay them across their backs).

After the perching practice, I put the birds on the ground.  Only the largest bird hopped around some, but mostly, they just stayed put and wanted to be close to me.  Again, they seemed very attuned to listening to the birdsong.

May 4, 2020

May 4, 2020

We have graduated to a cage as we outgrew our nest box.  I walked into the bathroom yesterday morning and had three little birds run up to me and all three jumped on my house slipper, looked up at me and opened their mouths.  Did I mention they had pooped all over the bathroom floor?  They seem to be doing well in the cage.  I’ll wait a few days and add some perches.  Right now, they grab on to the side of the cage and flap their wings.

It’s cold, windy, and has been mostly overcast here today so we’re staying inside.  I keep a portable heater on low in the bathroom where they are.  My next door neighbor let me borrow a book on Bluebirds the other day which I finally hope to start reading today.  Life has been so busy since these birds came into my life.  It’s like suddenly having 3 newborns.  My kitties will be glad to see them fly the coop, so that all my attention will once again be back on them.

Gail ♥  

About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in Animals, birds, Nature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to On Storms, Perching and Preening

  1. Relax... says:

    Baby birds look so grouchy, lol. God bless you for saving, sustaining, and teaching them, and, even more, I’m so glad you safely withstood the derecho!

  2. KC says:

    Wow…flipped through your other posts…good job so far keeping them alive! That’s dedication and they seem to be doing well. May God Bless you for caring for those tiny, helpless creatures.

  3. Isn’t it amazing how they trust you outside and how they run to you for food! I hope the little one makes it, but if it’s more than just his foot I’m guessing you’ve given him more of a chance than his mother would have. Sad, but nature has its system.
    Sorry to hear about the weather problems. Seems like our weather is pretty similar to each other’s. Stay safe my dear!

    • Gail says:

      Thank you. The runt seems stronger today and they all fed well last night and for all three feedings today. Upon closer exam of the little runt’s foot yesterday, I realized she is missing part of one toe.

  4. JustI says:

    Amazing that God gave a retired (?) veterinarian 3 little Blue birds to care for before the big storm. I think He knew what he was doing. I love the pictures and seeing how they’ve grown since you took them in. Hopefully they will all 3 thrive, and next breeding season their parents will return and add to the flock 🙂

    I’ve never heard of a Derecho, but hurricanes… yes. I’m hoping this year they will pass up on Florida.

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for the comment. I’m not so sure I’ve done these little birds a favor. I keep reading that only 50% of fledglings survive and that their biggest predators are raccoons and snakes. We have chicken snakes here (seen 2 in the past week). We also have 3 raccoons who come to our deck every night. We also have opossums, skunks and hawks, All of those predators to baby birds! I hope God will keep them safe, because I’m not so sure I know how.

  5. Linda Stoll says:

    Gail, be safe, be well. And thank you for caring for God’s creatures!

  6. misifusa says:

    Gail those babies are darling…and no, I’ve never heard of a Derecho either! What a strange year this has been!

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