The frantic, rewarding life of a hummingbird-rescue hotline worker.
In this bright, engrossing debut, Masear, who teaches English as a second language at UCLA Extension, recounts her experiences as a rehabber of injured or orphaned hummingbirds in Los Angeles. Since 2008, some 20,000 callers have sought her help for birds in trouble. Whether hit by a golf ball in Bel Air, or by a stretch limousine in Beverly Hills, or simply found floating in a Hollywood Hills swimming pool, the cute, charismatic little creatures invariably win the hearts of humans—and prove demanding, stress-inducing patients. “I got involved in saving hummingbirds because their delicate beauty and poetic flight spoke to my soul,” writes Masear, who spends her summers advising panicky callers regarding birds in distress (“The birds are screaming, my kids are crying, and my wife hates me….What do I do?”), often conducting rescues herself. In a film-prop warehouse, she saved one trapped bird by duct-taping an antique butterfly net to an aboriginal spear. With a sharp eye for anecdotes—both bird and human—the author offers highly readable stories of birds like Gabriel, who was near death when she began his five-month rehabilitation, and an astonishing range of callers, from goths and martial artists to the woman who communicated telepathically with birds in her backyard. There are five species of hummingbirds in the Los Angeles area—the Allen’s and Anna’s are most common—and their numbers range in the thousands. Masear describes their courtship practices, flight maneuvers, and migrations; her hectic rounds of half-hourly feedings; and her emotional trauma over birds she cannot save. For her own guidance, she turns to the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (“Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things”). In the past four decades, Southern California rehabbers have released more than 10,000 healthy young hummingbirds.
Not just for birders, this captivating book brims with warmth, humor, and drama that will have wide appeal.