Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Bird Jumped

Little Bird's World
 [This post is an unexpected sequel to a previous piece, Dancing on the Edge of the Nest. It would probably be helpful to read that one before seeing where this one takes you.]

I stepped out onto the porch this morning with coffee and newspaper in hand. As we do each day, I went to check the status of the robin's nest, gently lifting it down from its hanger so as to see inside.

This time, to my horror and near panic, just as I touched the branch nestling the nest, there was a frantic flapping of wings and a no longer tiny bird flew past my hand, went briefly airborne, and then dropped to our porch's concrete floor. There was an understandable cacophony of clacking, chirping, screeching, as at least five birds descended on the scene, perhaps better referred to now as the crime scene.

I knew the old wives tale that once a human has touched a bird its family has nothing more to do with it. But without time to check Snopes.com, I chose intervention. I took the bird into my hand and reached up to try to return it to its nest. The small bird again flapped its wings mightily and again escaped my grasp, which was admittedly very gentle because of my desire not to hurt its fragile body. This time it sailed a bit into the air, wings extended, before landing in the yard in front of the house. [Quick Fact Update: According to Snopes, the common assumption that human touch of a baby bird drives mother bird away is false. See the documentation here.]

More sirens from the attending birds. I watched as the little thing hopped its way across the yard, accompanied by its entourage, huddling down for a bit and then venturing forward once again. One of the birds flew close in a circle and then landed on the grass within a few feet of the bird. It chirped away as if giving some last minute flight instructions.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Dancing on the Edge of the Nest

My granddaughters have been quite intrigued by the life and death drama playing itself out in the hanging fern on our front porch. They don’t think of it in quite so dire terms, but I’ll bet the two parental robins, squawking their disapproval every time we approach the nest, fear that their very survival is at stake.

And to be honest, the leading indicators aren’t good. The nest was originally populated by three blue eggs, each of them brimming with whatever possibilities any middle class robin born into a good home might hope for. However, the nesting process seemed a bit long and worrisome until one morning we peeked and saw that one of the three eggs was broken, its occupant AWOL. But then we turned our eyes downward and there on the porch lay the first casualty, a crumpled little wisp of a thing resembling a tiny misshapen prune more than a nestling that, once grown, would be seen as the harbinger of spring in all its freshness and hope. I tossed it gently behind the bushes; a full funeral seemed a bit overblown, but I did have a twinge.

The next day a second chance for carrying on the robin family name penetrated its fragile shell and emerged, its beak flapping open and shut and assuming, wrongly, that if we were there it was to bring food. This one seems to understand, unlike its short-lived sibling, that it is best not to dance on the edge of the nest.

Momma Robin, undoubtedly awash in Momma guilt, rained down a hailstorm of squawks whenever danger threatened. I scoffed at her fear of the girls—anyone should know they wouldn’t hurt a flea. More understandable is its suspicion of my brother-in-law, who is living with us on an extended visit while relocating here. He’s harmless too, but he’s a bit restless, wanders out onto the porch in the wee hours, emitting puffs of white papal-like smoke into the fresh morning air, and making unexpected body noises that are much more severe than anything Ashley or Ayla can replicate--thankfully. I’m sure Momma Robin has noticed and is exceedingly cautious as she sneaks worms behind enemy lines.