Uneasily I approach the top stairs of the subway's Q platform at Union Square. Glancing down, I see it's packed right to the edge, impenetrable, five deep, New York evening rush hour. I make my way down the steps, carefully meandering through the throng. I hold the paper bag close to my chest and create a buffer with uplifted shoulders and slightly turned out elbows. The content of my sack is delicate; it holds the patient.
Last week it was a common yellowthroat, the week before a woodcock (one of three found injured in the city that day), today it is a shivering pigeon. Huddled on a ledge over a real estate office window, with temperatures in the 20s, it was doubtful he would have made it through the night–the NYC Audubon injured bird report emailed earlier said he had been there since 9 a.m. When I arrived, he seemed a very unhappy bird. I climbed an adjacent stairs so I could reach him, then quickly grabbed him and placed him into the bag. Now we wait together for the next uptown train.
The Q train arrives, so crowded that most people will wait for the next. But time is of the essence; and so with gentle determination, I wedge my way through and find a safe spot against the end door. The train lurches forward. I peek into the bag. Inside, my rescued bird is safe, shifting around and trying to flap his wings.
At 87th street, I run up the stairs, carefully avoiding other pedestrians. Turning onto Columbus, I enter the Wild Bird Fund, its large window displays filled with rehabilitated birds and turtles. I fill out the intake form detailing time found, location, and symptoms - in this case, lethargy and a twisting head, probably from lead poisoning.