I love listening to the birds outside, especially early weekend mornings when I’m off work and get to have my coffee on the back deck. I love to smell the crisp morning air, soak up a healthy dose of green trees, a nice breeze and the birds’ sweet sounds while the world is still quiet. The whole combination speaks to my soul. I do have some bird feeders out, but I have never taken the time to really study the birds that come. Miracles of nature happen outside every day and I have been one of those guilty of being too distracted with day-to-day tasks to take time to observe more than what happens right in front of me. The experience I had in recent past weeks has been a reminder of what we miss when we let ourselves get too caught up in our own lives.
I had the joy of learning about the habits of a robin family nest under my kitchen window. I couldn’t imagine what compelled Mrs. Robin to pick this busy spot, for the cedar shrub she called home is no more than four feet tall and right next to our busy front door. Curiosity got the best of me and I had to see if there were eggs in the nest. Sure enough, I counted four bright blue eggs. When my grandchildren visited, I pointed out the nest and gave them warning not to disturb it; I just wanted to spark their interest in a miracle of nature. I wasn’t confident the eggs had much of a chance in that location, but I was willing to bet that Mrs. Robin knew what she was doing.
The next days I didn’t think much about the eggs, except when Mrs. Robin startled me (or I startled her) as I walked up to the front door and she flew from the nest. I’d apologize for not remembering to go through the garage and felt honored that she never gave up.
The afternoon of Memorial Day, I was cleaning up dishes in the sink and noticed what must have been Mr. Robin, a much darker robin, bringing a small piece of worm to the nest. That was the exciting “ah-ha” moment when I realized the eggs must have hatched. When Mr. Robin left, I checked it out and discovered some rather homely tiny little birds in there. I could only see two for sure. I was wary that Mr. or Mrs. Robin might come dive-bombing at me so I didn’t stay to account for all four.
Over the next week, I peeked here and there to make sure they were alright. I watched them grow much cuter. They lay there starting to fill the nest with their growing bodies feathering out and soaking up the sunlight. I think they thought I was their mom when they sensed I was near, or heard the peep of my camera focusing, because they’d open their bright yellow beaks and stretch their necks up waiting to be fed. I could see that all four nestlings were there, slightly hidden in the cedar.
One week to the day since they hatched, I passed by and checked the nest. My heart leaped when I saw their little eyes open and how beautifully their feathers were filling in. I was astounded at the rate of their growth and looked up some facts on the internet on how quickly they mature. These nestlings were right on target. Their white markings reminded me of a newborn fawn. How could I ever have thought they were ugly!
Mr. and Mrs. Robin never seemed to mind me checking out their kids, from a distance. I marveled at how these robin parents worked together and I asked Saint Francis to watch over them. I am also a cat lover, but I would have had a hard time accepting it if any of the wild cats around here robbed this nest. Perhaps that’s why Mrs. Robin chose that spot, thinking it was the safest location since predators would be less likely to come near the front door.
Just before the weekend, which was almost two weeks since hatching, there were only two fledglings left in the nest. There was still a hope that I would get to see the last one leave since the weekend was coming and I didn’t have to work. Saturday was cold and the two stayed huddled in the nest. Sunday brought bright sunshine and just the kind of perfect day, filled with all kinds of possibilities. As I went about caring for the flowers in the back yard, it dawned on me to check the nest. I stared at the perfectly round work-of-art nest with mixed emotions. It was empty. They were gone. I was happy and sad at the same time. Just when I thought I missed them all, I noticed the last fledgling hopping along the stones on the side of the garage, not far from the shrub. It hopped its way into our open garage. I went in the house and out the other way to the garage to do my “nanny” duty. I slowly walked toward the young bird and guided it back outside where it took flight for a short distance, landing not far from the nesting area. It was a little like watching a child taking its first steps.
I was relieved that the little family flourished to independence, but I realize this must be the most vulnerable time of all for these young birds. Mr. and Mrs. Robin are still around the territory and seeming to chirp their orders for their young not to stray too far. Sometimes animals and people are not much different; I can totally relate to the heartache and the joy of watching kids “grow wings” and gain their independence, but that’s a whole other story (or book).
I still can’t get over how these robins picked such a nesting spot. There are a lot of tall trees and brush in the back of our house that leads down to Honey Creek. It’s kind of a wildlife sanctuary in itself. Yet, these robins chose to live so close to us humans with all the interference of traffic in and out the front door, lawn mowing and grandchildren at play. You would think it would put the odds against them right from the get go.
All I can say is, “Good job Mr. and Mrs. Robin, you did it! You are welcomed to come back again and raise another family at my house anytime.”