Fifteen minutes ago, Amy, the lead minister here, walked into my office. “Do you know anything about birds?” she said to me.
Without really looking up, I pointed to the pair of binoculars and the two field guides on my desk. “Yeah, I’m into birds,” I said.
She held out her hand, on which was perched a small songbird. “I found this little guy outside my office,” she said, “and wondered if he’s all right.”
“Black Phoebe,” I said, still not quite registering that the bird was quite calmly perching on her hand. “He looks OK. Maybe he needs water?” The phoebe continued to perch on Amy’s hand while I went off and got a tray. The bird moved its head and looked around. I said to Amy, “You’re like St. Francis or something.” I put some water in the tray. When Amy bent down to put the phoebe next to the tray of water, the phoebe suddenly flew away and perched inside Amy’s office.
After we got over being startled, we both laughed. “Well,” I said, “looks like there’s nothing wrong with that bird.”
“But why was it sitting there on the sidewalk?” said Amy.
“Maybe a hawk went by,” I said, spinning out a plausible hypothesis; I had seen an immature Cooper’s Hawk just outside my office a couple of weeks ago. “The phoebe was sitting there avoiding the hawk. In fact, now that I think of it, all the birds stopped singing a few minutes ago, which is what they do when a hawk goes by. Then this big mammal came along and picks up the phoebe.”
The phoebe stayed inside Amy’s office for about five minutes, watching her eat her lunch. She didn’t see it go. When I poked my head in her office to see if the phoebe had gone, it flew back in and immediately back out again.
“Jeez,” I said, “you really are like St. Francis.”
“One of my favorite saints,” said Amy.