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Mantecan’s home is where the wild things are

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Mantecan’s home is where the wild things are

It’s feeding time at noon Friday for Blue Jay Beep, one of two feathered friends that Caroline Baker rescued in the spring when they were just nestlings. Baker named the other blue jay Peep.


POSTED July 20, 2013 2:24 a.m.

Caroline Baker’s best friends go Beep and Peep in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.

They twitter, too, although in much shorter and arguably much sweeter versions of today’s haiku-like social networking tweets.

B & P are blue jays, as in feathered friends. They are also faithful and playful pals. The birds are Baker’s alarm clock in the morning. She knows it’s time to get up when B & P flies in through her bedroom window and they start pecking at her toenails. The gesture is the pinioned pair’s way of reminding Baker that it’s time for her to serve them breakfast. She would then go outside with, say, bits of cheese in her hands. All she has to do is stretch out her arms and B & P would simply perch on her palms or arms and feast on the treats spread out before them.

The brazen blue jays and Baker became best friends after she rescued them from certain death. She acquired Beep in March when one of her neighbors was getting rid of a dead tree from their property in northeast Manteca. As the neighbor began dragging the tree for disposal, Baker heard a panicked high-pitched sound coming out from somewhere inside the thick brown foliage.

“I could hear a bird screaming, so I told him to stop a minute. I said, I think there’s a nest in there. And there was one bird in the nest, just a little baby – a little guy,” Baker said recalling that day in March when she found Beep.

About a week later, a friend of Baker was “checking out the stem of an orange tree” when she accidentally knocked an orange fruit with a young bird perched on it. Bird and citrus fruit “both hit the ground at the same time,” injuring what appeared to be a nestling. The friend brought the injured bird to Baker who nursed both blue jays with plenty of TLC.

“They got along great!” Baker happily noted.

“When they were young, I kept them in a fake Christmas tree for a while. I fed them baby food – a mixture of rice and vegetables – and beef broth, and rice cereal on the side,” she said.

During that time, she had the birds inside her house until they were able to “fly from the ground upwards, then I let them go outside,” Baker explained.

It was only then that she allowed her feathered friends to go outside because “if they can’t get off the ground, they’re fair game to a cat or something,” she said.

The blue jays have since flown from Baker’s comfortable coop, but B & P continued to keep close to home.

Even though she doesn’t see them sometimes, Baker knows B & P “are outside in the trees” in her front yard. “They won’t leave until the end of summer,” she said.

Until then, Baker will continue being a St. Francis of Assisi to the friendly feathered creatures. Early morning around eight, between 11 a.m. and noon, and sometime in the early evening often finds Baker out in the yard with the tasty morsels in her hands.

“They really like cheese,” she said.

Sometimes, she doesn’t see them. “So I go out in the yard and hold my arm out even though I’m not sure where they are. But I know they are somewhere nearby. So I’ll call them and they come. I kind of holler or tweet and they just come in my arm,” Baker said laughing.

Other times, the birds will be “hollering” and causing quite a racket, which persists until she goes outside with the tasty morsels.

“They’re kind of big mouths; sometimes people hate them because they are annoying,” Baker said still laughing.

But she finds the birds playful and fun. That was demonstrated midday on Friday when she stood next to the dwarf tree just outside her bedroom window. She had moved the fake Christmas tree among the tree’s foliage for the birds to build a nest. Also set on a tree branch is a container that she fills with water for the birds when they are thirsty.

As Baker stood next to the tree, her raised hands holding bits of cheese, she called on the birds even though she could not see them. As it turned out, there was only Beep nearby. It hopped from branch to branch, all the while making excited twitter sounds, until it quickly snatched a large piece of cheese with its sharp beak from Baker’s hand then quickly alighted on her thick mane of blond hair.

In a fraction of a heartbeat, Beep was back up the tree just as quickly as it came down in a whirl of flapping feathers as a thrilled and delighted Baker looked on laughing.

Rescuing wildlife a

lifetime mission

“I love wildlife. I’ll rehabilitate wildlife any chance I can get,” said Manteca-born and –raised Baker who works part-time as a bartender at The Islander near the now-defunct Oakwood Lake Resort in west Manteca.

Blue jays Beep and Peep are just the latest in her wildlife menagerie through the years. When she was living in a mobile home at the Islander Mobile Home Park, she rescued and took care of a baby raccoon. A construction crew was clearing brush on a piece of property one day at nearby Weatherbee Lake as they got ready to build a house. In the process, the workers stumbled upon “a nest of baby raccoons,” Baker recalled.

She couldn’t take all three of the young raccoons, “so I took one and only that one survived,” she said.

She bottle-fed the baby raccoon with watered-down milk and cream of wheat “and he just thrived on it,” said Baker, a graduate of Manteca High and the mother of two grown daughters.

“That’s been a few years now,” she said.

“When it was too small, I just kept him in the house, and he’d go with me to work. I worked at the (Islander) bar at that time. He would go up the tree up front and he’d wait there for me. Sometimes it would come down and mingle with the customers,” said Baker who still works part time at the watering hole.

The raccoon was quite popular with the customers, she added with a laugh.

The raccoon soon “found a mate and came back one last time with its mate to show me that it had a mate, and that was the last time I saw it,” Baker said.

She also raised a crane during the time she lived at the Islander. “A baby (crane) got knocked out of the nest because (the parents) kick the weakest one out,” she said, explaining how she came upon the helpless young bird.

“I can’t see a helpless animal and not do something,” said Baker who quit her nursing studies at Modesto Junior College when her mother needed her help to take care of a brother who was seriously injured in a car accident.

“I’ve always loved animals. Rescuing wildlife is just something that I will always do,” she said.

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