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Bay Area Stories About Birds and Bees

With any luck, a rare bird with a broken wing will take flight again.

Right now, he’s resting from major surgery, eating bugs to regain his strength. It’s been a tough few weeks.

“He’s a good little bird,” said veterinarian Rebecca Duerr, who performed an operation to stitch together three bone fragments in the broken right wing of a rare 1-ounce shorebird known as the snowy plover.

If the patient had to pay, it would have cost $2,500, Duerr said. But birds don’t pay to Fairfield’s International Bird Rescue Foundation. Everything is the responsibility of the house, including post-operative bugs.

The plover, one of 200 remaining in the Bay Area, was spotted limping last month by birdwatchers at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Union City and rushed to the operating room 65 miles away. Duerr said the bird could have been hit by a car or tangled in fishing line.

During a pandemic, said foundation spokesman Russ Curtis, everyone is watching out for everyone else. This also applies to birds. Birds and people, vertebrates of a feather, coming together.

The news these days can be sobering, even gloomy. But in the midst of darkness there are rays of light. We would love to hear examples of good news you have witnessed during this time. You can let us know your thoughts online at SFChronicle.com using our assignment editing tool, or send an email (which can include a photo) with the subject “Good news” to [email protected]


Duerr studied the tiny X-ray and, using all his skills, devised his strategy.

“It was a horrible break,” Duerr said. “The bone was in three small pieces.”

It must have been the most delicate operation the center could remember. To repair the wing, the three wispy bone fragments were lined up and a surgical pin the width of the thinnest sewing needle was carefully inserted through the middle of the pieces.

It took a good part of an hour. The team had to work fast, as anesthesia is a delicate task when the patient weighs 1 ounce. The operation was more dramatic than Fairfield has seen in some time.

But everything went well, Duerr said. The patient was placed in the recovery room, a birdcage he shared with a killdeer. There are few private facilities at International Bird Rescue.

For two weeks, the brown and white snow plover was fed tiny worms and seemed to recover. The other day the pin was removed. In a few days begins a regime of physiotherapy. A bird lover will raise and lower the plover’s right wing.

If all goes well, the bird will be released in Union City on Father’s Day, Curtis said, which would be appropriate since male plovers are known to be loyal companions and good parents.

Why do a $2,500 operation on a lame bird? There is a pandemic going on. Medical resources are scarce. Why not let nature take its course?

At Fairfield, the very question ruffles feathers.

“We have an obligation to help, especially if a species is endangered,” Duerr said. “The vast majority of our patients are injured by people. It’s not the bird’s fault. We must do what we can.

Bees take shelter in a cold place: There’s good news for 200 rare bees who, due to the pandemic, have been forced to live inside a San Francisco refrigerator.

They were released from captivity. They are alive and well in Larkspur.

The bees are the property of neophyte San Francisco beekeeper Bianca Dawydiak, 25, whose new beekeeping business had the misfortune to start at the same time as the pandemic.

Two months ago, she had a deal to place her 200 bees in a small hive on a rooftop on the campus of her alma mater, the University of San Francisco. The same day she was supposed to move the bees to their new home, the campus was ordered to close and the bee market was cancelled.

So Dawydiak stored them in his fridge instead. She was determined to take good care of her bees, as she had paid $1 each for them from a bee wholesaler in Washington. She kept them happy in empty plastic containers of Chinese take-out food. She punched holes in the lids of the containers and placed cotton balls soaked in sugar water, along with lavender and poppy flowers, inside each.

A bee, she says, doesn’t mind being in a fridge for a while. He falls asleep and wakes up peppy when things heat up.

“I felt very bad that my bees were in quarantine, even though they seemed to be fine,” she said.

But a bee, even a dear one, cannot sleep very long. So, with USF still closed, Dawydiak decided to build a small beehive and release the awakened bees into his parents’ garden in Larkspur.

“It was a lot of money, just flying away,” she said. “One dollar per bee.”

At the end of the year, she hopes to harvest enough bee eggs from the hive to run the business. Eventually, she hopes to make a profit by selling bees to Bay Area bee enthusiasts.

The variety of bee that Dawydiak is fond of is called a mason bee. It’s rarer than the kind of bees that live in white boxes by the millions. A mason bee does not sting, stays close to home, and prefers native California plants. There’s no honey involved, which is fine with Dawydiak. Messy stuff, honey.

Dawydiak said beekeeping is a lot more fun than his other job, which involves checking mortgage applicants to see if they qualify and telling them no if they don’t. Raising bees is child’s play compared to this.

“These bees are happy,” she said, and miscreants were urged to check out her website (www.bizzbuzz.org) to assure. “You can hang out with them. They are fascinating. And they don’t bother you. They are perfect.”

Choose a bird, any bird: Nothing seems to last these days, including the bird Clay Anderson will draw on your sidewalk.

It’s in chalk. It will be swept away by the next downpour.

“That’s life,” he said. “Nothing is permanent, even the things we think are permanent. We are learning that now.

A pandemic, Anderson said, is a good time to reflect on how temporary everything is.

Anderson, a graphic designer and director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s youth program, likes to draw birds on sidewalks. He’s pretty good at it. He was the driving force behind the famous chalk bird project at Richmond Town Hall two years ago. Storms have come and gone since, and those birds have been flying.

Anderson donates his chalk art as part of the annual Audubon fundraiser. Everything is online this year, like everything else. No party, no bites, no champagne, no disguised and decked out donors. Just an online auction.

Most of the art at auction is the one you hang on the wall. Not Anderson’s.

Drawing on the sidewalk during a pandemic has its challenges, Anderson said. Choose your bird, then point to the sidewalk you want to cover, Anderson said. Make sure the neighbors don’t care. The Audubon society gets enough shouting. Then step back. Way back. Six feet is not far enough.

Sidewalk chalk isn’t just a kid’s thing, Anderson said. It’s as real as what Michelangelo did on the chapel ceiling, and he didn’t have to wear a mask or gloves. And chalk, by its character, also has something to say about creation.

“We get caught up in things that we think are going to survive,” Anderson said. “Nothing like working with chalk.”

The tender for Anderson’s services, at bit.ly/BirdAuction, reached $150. Auctions end Monday. The next rain is forecast for Saturday.

Steve Rubenstein is a staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @SteveRubeSF