They are gone now, having taken wing out Dr. Bob Cohn's window and having last been seen soaring over the parched Prince George's County landscape. But how the four sparrows got to Bob Cohn at all is the sort of tale you usually associate with fish.
It begins on a May morning, when Bob Kieckhefer of Silver Spring was having his car worked on at Scanlan Fleet Service in Bladensburg. No sooner had the car gone up on the hoist than the mechanics heard chirping, of all things, from somewhere deep inside the frame of the car.
Head man Bob Scanlan and two of his workers put everything else on hold to see what was up inside the Kieckhefermobile. They removed the rear bumper, reached under the exposed frame, and presto! There was a nest full of baby sparrows.
Two of the seven were dead, and the rest looked as if they might soon follow. They were scrawny, and they were noisily pleading with anyone in earshot to do something about that.
Where was Mom? Perhaps in the neighborhood, more likely in Bob's neighborhood 20 miles away. But this was no time for debate. Taking nest and occupants in hand, Bob Kieckhefer zoomed north along U.S. Rte. 1 to the North Laurel Animal Hospital. Bob Cohn met him at the door.
"We've got to get some food into these little guys," were the first words Dr. Bob spoke. This he proceeded to do, with a medicine dropper. Satisfied that the little guys were in good hands, Car Owner Bob departed.
"With a pair of tweezers, we fed them a combination of wet bread, vitamins and water every 15 minutes for the first few days. My wife was really tremendous about the whole thing," said Dr. Bob.
One of the five survivors did die after a few days. But its four siblings thrived. Dr. Bob released them just last week.
Happy trails, guys. Just remember to come back to Maryland one of these days. You've got three Bobs to thank.
Elsewhere in the bird file . . . .
It was a nice afternoon in June, so Arlene Posner of Burke decided to go outside and enjoy the day. She opened the sliding glass door to her family room. But she had not installed the screen door. In a flash, a bird flew inside the house.
The bird flapped its wings nervously and banged against the window pane, obviously trying to get out. Arlene might have tried opening the glass door again to give the bird a way to do that, but the only thing that occurred to her was to call for help.
The nearby Pohick Fire Station responded in short order. One of the firefighters "gently scooped up the panicky bird, took him outside and placed him on my front lawn. We then stood there and witnessed the bird's lovely flight to freedom," Arlene writes.
Well done, Pohickpersons. But I don't think calling the fire department is the best way to handle a trapped bird -- and Arlene would be the first to agree. What should she have done? Is there a "right way" to handle a bird that accidentally gets trapped indoors?
Who better to ask than the hero of the previous item, Dr. Bob Cohn?
"Really," he said, "just use common sense. Leave a window open and try not to excite the bird. Otherwise he might get hysterical and fly into a wall. Gently put a towel over him and put him near the window."
The key is not to get panicky yourself. Your winged friend has already done enough of that.
All right, let's go for broke. Here's Quirky Bird Item Number Three -- this one from Arlington.
James Pickett and Mike and Mary Elliott were innocently motoring down Spout Run Parkway toward George Washington Parkway when they spotted a wild turkey on the median. As these three watched in amazement, the turkey walked toward the curb, looked both ways, then crossed Spout Run and flounced off in the direction of Rosslyn.
I don't blame our friend the gobbler for heading toward Rosslyn. He was probably hungry, and they've got much better lunches in some of those hanging-fern Rosslyn restaurants than they do in the woods.
Still, wild turkeys in Arlington, Va., in 1986?
"Turkeys have been seen in the area between Teddy Roosevelt Bridge and Spout Run," confirmed Bart Trusdell, chief ranger of the George Washington Memorial Parkway for the National Park Service. "You do know that if Ben Franklin had his way, the national bird would have been the turkey. He thought that the eagle was much too villainous."
But the line of the week belongs to Duncan Morrow, public affairs specialist for the Park Service. Asked if it was indeed true that turkeys frequent the Spout Run area, he replied:
"Most of them are wearing Pentagon Athletics T-shirts."