For some reason I’m busy rescuing waterfowl these days, and had another call last night from a famous local author whose koi pond became home to a mallard and her new babies (I referred her to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors). And I’m a sucker for such rescues, especially when they have happy endings, like this one.
Here are the YouTube notes from ViralHog:
“My husband was cutting up a tree that fell down during a storm so we could clean up our yard and while cutting through part of it he heard animal noises. We discovered a raccoon nest and found a baby raccoon that had fallen out as well as 3 other baby raccoons inside the hollowed-out tree.”
Momma Raccoon may have vanished, but the babies will be fine.
Below are two videos (there are more) about a 76 year old retired bricklayer from Brazil and the penguin who regularly visits him. The bird is a Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) named Din Din, and the bricklayer is João Pereira de Souza, who lives on a small island near Rio. Ten years ago de Souza saved Din Din’s life when he found the struggling bird covered with oil on the rocks. Now the bird apparently visits Joāo every year, though it’s not clear where Din Din goes in the interim.
The story is told in full at ADAPT, which includes this:
“He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” Joao recalls.
The little guy wasn’t gone long though and just a few months later, he was back at the same beach. He spotted Joao fishing and followed him home, staying with him for the rest of the year.
Amazingly, this cycle has continued over the past five years [this was written in 2016]; each year Din Din spends approximately eight months with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding on the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile.
“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” Joao told Globo TV. “No one else is allowed to touch him. He pecks them if they do. He lays on my lap, lets me give him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and to pick him up.
“Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me for the past five years. He arrives in June and leaves to go home in February and every year he becomes more affectionate as he appears even happier to see me.”
Professor Krajewski, a biologist who interviewed the fisherman for Globo TV, told The Independent: “I have never seen anything like this before. I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well. When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”
Here are the videos:
I can’t find much about Din Din after 2016, so I’m not sure if this grand reunion is still going on. Wikipedia notes that Magellanic penguins can live up to 25 years in the wild, though.
Reader John Crisp sent me this video along with the following heartfelt comment (quoted with permission):
Sorry if you have already seen and/or posted this. It made me cry. I’ve been lucky enough to spend some considerable time with elephants, and I’m not sure that a planet without elephants would be worth living on.
I don’t recognize the tunes, but the elephant clearly likes them, swaying with pleasure. What a great privilege to serenade an elephant!
The YouTube notes:
Lam Duan is the name of an old blind elephant, her name means “Tree with Yellow Flowers”. Lam Duan has been blind most of her life. Lamduan lives at Elephants World, Thailand. http://www.elephantsworld.org
This tiny octopus found its only refuge in a plastic cup, which of course would spell doom since predators could see it clearly. Then a group of divers came along and spent a lot of time trying to give it a better home. They finally succeeded.
I love videos like this, for they represent true altruism: the concern of our species for animals of other species. Every time I see something like this, it effaces, at least temporarily, the hatred and division that roils our planet.
The YouTube notes (there’s sound):
We spent a whole dive and most of our air saving this octopus from what was bound to be a cruel fate. The coconut octopus, also known as veined octopus, is born with the instinct to protect itself by creating a mobile home out of coconut or clam shells. This particular individual however has been trapped by their instincts and have made a home out of a plastic cup they found underwater. While a shell is a sturdy protection, a passing eel or flounder would probably swallow the cup with the octopus in it, most likely also killing the predator or weakening it to a point where it will be soon eaten by an even bigger fish.
We found this particular octopus at about 20 meters under the water, we tried for a long time to give it shells hoping that it would trade the shell. Coconut octopus are famous for being very picky about which shells they keep so we had to try with many different shells before it found one to be acceptable.
Filmed in: – Lembeh, Indonesia – December 2018
Look at that octopus check out each shell with its tentacles!
I’ve posted a few times about Abramek Koplowicz (see here), a 14-year-old Polish boy from Lodz whose life was snuffed out by the Holocaust (he was sent to Auschwitz). But before he died, he wrote some lovely poems, poems kept alive by his stepbrother Eliezer Grynfeld (who recently died at 97), who donated Abramek’s book of poems to Yad Vashem (see below). The poems were translated into English by my friends Malgorzata Koraszewska and Sarah Lawson (see post here) and were turned into a wonderful illustrated and hand-printed-and-bound art book by Kelly Houle, which you can still buy here.
Koplowicz’s most poignant poem is called “A Dream,” about his wish to soar above his life in the ghetto and travel the world in an airplane, his “motorized bird.” You can read the English translation here.
Now, in a lovely story published at Aish.com, Abramek’s wish lives on, in the form of a pilot for the Israeli Air Force. You can read the story by clicking on the screenshot below:
Look at the subtitle above, which makes me tear up, for I’ve lived with Abramek’s poem for a long time.
For Lieutenant C, one of Israel’s newest air force graduates, a poem written by a 13-year-old Holocaust victim about flying an airplane to the Holy Land has been a source of daily inspiration ever since he read it nine months into his training.
“When I am twenty years old,” Abramek Koplewiczwrote in his poem entitled Dream, “In a motorized bird I’ll sit, and to the reaches of space I’ll rise. I will fly, I will float, to a beautiful faraway world…”
The only son of Mendel and Yocheved Gittel Koplewicz, Abramek was ten years old when he and his parents were ordered into the Lodz Ghetto by the Nazis in 1940. A talented writer who wrote stories, poems and a diary in a notebook his parents gave him, he was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Dream was written in 1943 when Abramek was just 13 years old and is now displayed in multiple languages in Yad Vashem’s gallery dedicated to the Lodz Ghetto.
The names of Israeli pilots are not given lest they be shot down and survive, for, if identified as pilots, they’d be dealt with “harshly”. At any rate, the pilot went to Vad Yashem, saw Abramek’s book (below), and so Abramek’s name lives on:
Along with the other air force cadets, C had taken a week out of combat training for a weeklong IDF educational seminar. One of the days included a trip to Yad Vashem.
“I don’t know how long I stood there reading it but I was literally shaking and weeping as I realized I was living out his dream. I couldn’t speak.”
“In the air force, the planes are named after birds. So when I read those words ‘I’ll sit in a bird with an engine,’ I felt even more connected to this little boy’s dream. He wrote down the poem and memorized it. “When I first began flight training, I said over the poem before takeoff and every time since I have stepped inside a cockpit to fly. It reminds me that I am living his dream every time I fly.”
Here’s Abramek’s notebook in Yad Vashem, and a photo of the donation by Eliezer, whose nickname was Lolek):
Here’s Abramek’s half brother donating his poems to Yad Vashem.
When I posted this video on Twitter, showing two Italian girls who were huge fans of Roger Federer, and also played “quarantine tennis” between rooftops before they met him, I got pushback that it was a fake video: a commercial proposition for advertising Barilla pasta (Federer does promote the company). But I still think this is genuine: the girls have no idea that they’re going to meet Federer. I doubt that the company would have made the whole thing up as a bit of acting. And even if it’s semi-commercial, it’s still heartwarming.
Here’s the YouTube description:
During the lockdown, Carola and Vittoria, two teenagers from Finale Ligure, in Italy, found a creative way to play a ‘socially distanced’ tennis match: each standing on her own roof. Roger Federer and Barilla saw their video and decided to surprise the girls right in their home in Finale Ligure. Here, Roger Federer, Carola and Vittoria played a spectacular and unusual match, and even ended up sharing a memorable day under the sunny Italian sky! Pasta and sport do indeed bring people together.
Here’s a “behind the scenes” video showing how the one above was made:
“Brewski” is appropriate here because this lovely story involves a Polish lady. It also involves a 103-year-old who recovered from coronavirus and celebrated with a Bud Light. (My only beef here is that she didn’t choose a decent beer. I would have at least asked for a Sam Adams Boston Ale. Click on screenshot to read.
Part of the story from the Boston Globe:
Jennie Stejna made the ultimate comeback.
The 103-year-old became seriously ill from the coronavirus but managed to make a full recovery. To celebrate, she enjoyed an ice cold bottle of Bud Light.
Stejna lives at Life Care Center of Wilbraham, according to Adam Gunn, her grandson-in-law, who said the family learned of her COVID-19 diagnosis on April 25.
As her health deteriorated, the staff at the nursing home became increasingly concerned that she wasn’t going to survive and her family called to say goodbye to their beloved Babci (a Polish name for grandmother).
Gunn and his wife, Shelley, spoke to her, as did their 4-year-old daughter.
“I asked her if she was ready for heaven, and she said, ‘hell yeah,’’’ said Gunn, who lives in Easton. “She’s a feisty Polish woman who says how she feels.’’
But her condition improved, and on May 13 she received negative test results.
To mark the occasion she was treated with the beer.
“She beat it,’’ said Gunn. “She’s doing great.’’
After she received the results and enjoyed the Bud Light, Gunn said, “She told the staff to ‘get the hell out of my room, I’m not sick anymore.’ ’’
Gunn said Stejna was always an avid sports fan and used to enjoy listening to sports broadcasts on a hand-held radio. “Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics . . . but she didn’t care much for football,’’ he said. “Red Sox games are what she really liked.’’
After Mary Schmich wrote her column about the pandemic and Honey the Duck at Botany pond, she received a lot of email, with some readers wanting to contact me. She forwards me those emails so I’m free to respond if I wish. I always do, but here’s one that came about a week ago, via Mary, that I found particularly touching. A kindred spirit and fellow mallard-phile!
I quote the letter, and the writer’s name, with his permission. The last line is very touching!
Mary, first of all, I always read your column. You are great (I still read the paper newspaper and just an aside in college during the summer I worked overnights in the Tribune’s pressroom). After reading today’s article about the professor feeding the ducks I had to tell you–and hope you can forward my email to Professor Coyne.
I am a retired (now 72) high school counselor who loved his job and always had an office filled with wonderful adolescents. My office faced a large totally enclosed courtyard. About 10 years before I retired one spring day in late April what should appear outside my window but a mother duck and about 10-12 baby ducks. I think mother duck thought the enclosed courtyard would be safe from predators, which in a way it did. However, there was no access to water.
First I had to put signs on all the doors to the courtyard warning students NOT to chase or try to pick up the baby ducks. The babies were so small so I bought a bunch of pie tins and filled them with water and they would swim in them. I also bought duck food. As the ducks got a little bigger I bought aluminum baking pans that they swam in. Next, as they continued to grow I bought a child-size plastic pool with a board to be used as a ramp.
Well, by the time the 10-12 ducks got pretty big I had to buy more pools (a total of 5) as they needed their own space. Finally sometime in July they would fly away. Even though I wasn’t working in the summer I would still come back and scrub out the pools and feed them daily. One year the water was turned off in the courtyard so I had to connect 3 or 4 hoses and run them from the janitor’s closet down the hall through the administrative and counseling office in order to reach the courtyard so I could refill the pools. I am certain the same mother came back for a number of years. This went on until 2 years before I retired when they didn’t return. I was glad in a way because I would have worried if I wasn’t there for them.
I loved those ducks.
Rick Watson Ph.D.
I asked Dr. Watson if he could tell if it was the same duck year after year (about eight years all told). He said he couldn’t be sure, but suspected so because she was always very friendly to him and reproduced in the same place.
And some heartwarming: a lovely video sent by Merilee, who saw it on PawsMyGosh. The YouTube notes say this:
An elderly man has struck up an adorable friendship with an otter. Seppo Laamanen, 65, and Iivari the otter became inseparable after he appeared at Seppo’s doorstep in 2011. Small and malnourished, Seppo fed him and worms and fish. And the adorable otter repaid his kindness by always visiting Seppo at his home in Punkaharju in eastern Finland.
I have to say that I can appreciate the man’s special bond with the otter, and the fact that it shies away from other people. This is to some extent the case with my mallards, and I sort of like the fact that I’ve won their trust.
Talk about a survivor: this is unbelievable! The story (h/t Malgorzata) comes from the Jewish Journal (first headline) and Forbes (second) and you can see it by clicking on the screenshots. But I’ll reproduce the whole short report from JJ below.
A 101-year-old man, identified as ‘Mr. P’ has been released from isolation after recovering from COVID-19 in the Italian city of Rimini. Mr. P., a WWII and Spanish Flu survivor was admitted last week to a hospital in northeast Italy after he was tested positive for the Coronavirus.
According to Gloria Lisi, Vice-Mayor of Rimini, as the patient began to recover it became “the story everyone talked about” in the hospital.
“Everyone saw hope for the future of all of us in the recovery of a person more than 100 years old,” Lisi said in a televised interview.
“Every day we see the sad stories from these weeks that mechanically tell about a virus that rages and is especially aggressive on the elderly. But he survived. Mr. P. survived.”
It doesn’t really say in what sense he was a Holocaust survivor, whether he was Jewish, whether he was in the camps, and so on. It could be that he simply lived through the time of the Holocaust, but you could say that about anyone who lived in Europe during those years. And did he really get the Spanish flu, or was simply alive but ininfected while it raged? Still, he did beat the COVID-19 at 101!
And the Forbes story is below, which doesn’t say anything about the Holocaust survival.
Crucial quote: “Mr. P made it. The family brought him home yesterday evening,” Lisi said. “[It teaches] us that even at 101 years, the future is not written.” His “truly extraordinary” recovery gave “hope for the future,” she added.
Key background: Mr. P’s survival is remarkable, especially considering the high fatality rates for older Italians who become infected with the virus. According to a report from Italy’s National Institute of Health, nearly 86% of deaths in the country were patients older than 70 years old. And while China, the U.S., and Italy all had confirmed coronavirus numbers hovering around 80,000 Thursday, Italy saw substantially more deaths, 8,165 compared to 1,000 in the U.S. and 3,287 in China. The age distribution of Italy’s population may be a factor— the country has the second-oldest population globally, with 23% of Italians clocking in at over age 65.
Tangent: Mr. P has joined the ranks of other centenarians to survive coronavirus, including 103-year-old Zhang Guangfen, a woman living in Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated. Guangfen was admitted to hospital in early March and was discharged a week later. On Thursday, South Korea saw its oldest survivor leave hospital after a 97-year-old female coronavirus patient made a full recovery. She is reported to be from Cheongdo, a city not far from Daegu, which has seen the worst of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak.
To paraphrase the old doo-wop song, “Who was that man? I’d like to shake his hand.” On second thought, maybe we’d just bump elbows.