T and I were drinking coffee outside of Companion Bakery when a Brewer’s blackbird alighted on the planter in front of us and regarded us with his bright yellow eye. We immediately noticed that the bird had something stuck to his foot: a three-inch piece of plastic with a snarl of wire attached. “Is that a plastic fork?” T asked in disbelief. Wherever the bird hopped, the shard of plastic went with him. He turned his head to peck at the alien object, trying to pry it loose, but the wire was deeply embedded in his talon.

I took off my sweater and approached him, hoping to drop it over the bird and remove the object, but he flew off. He fluttered back to us a second time and I threw some pastry crumbs on the ground, trying to lure him over to my improvised sweater-net, but he flew off again, trailing the object behind him, and this time he didn’t return.

It should have been the easiest thing in the world to rescue this blackbird, yet it was impossible. One of the most frustrating things about trying to help wild animals is that they don’t know we’re trying to help them. So we do our best, and if our best isn’t good enough, we forgive ourselves and we try again, another day, with another blackbird.

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