Freaked Out Fledglings

For several days we watched the two fledglings fidget in their nest.

The last brood, hatched in the nest on our front porch, consisted of 4 Robins.  This one? Only 2.

The mother Robin was easy to pick out when she was off the nest – she had what appeared to be a feather crest on the top of her head…or a Mohawk, and stood out from the others that hunted bugs and worms in our front yard.

I remember the day I first noticed her on the nest – and the day she settled onto the nest to incubate her eggs. It’s hard to believe that was a month ago.  She had rebuilt a nest used late this Spring.

Her eggs hatched a few days later than I anticipated and assumed it had something to do with the hot dry weather we’d had. They hatched with the first rains.

Mother and Father birds fed the babies.  With only two hungry mouths in the nest, the babies ate twice as much as the brood before and grew quickly – surprisingly fast.

I noticed the father stopped dropping by the nest late last week.  And, the mother’s visits became more sporadic – sometimes with food for them…sometimes not.  Sometimes she dropped by as if to see if the baby birds were still there, or to inquire as to why they had not yet taken wing.

Last Friday night, the baby birds spent the night in the nest alone.  That probably wasn’t their first night alone, but it was the first I noted.  Saturday, I did not see Momma bird at the nest at all.

The fledgling birds grew restless as the sun climbed higher and the day grew warmer.  Easily startled, they jumped at the slightest noise.

Hubby had been cutting grass in the front yard and paused to rest on the step of the porch, just below the nest.  When he rose to stand, the little birds freaked and with great squawking and flapping of wings they fluttered from the nest into the center of the front yard.

I was not here to witness it, but he shared his surprise and felt sorry that he had frightened the little birds out of the safety of their nest.

In truth, the nest was no longer a safe place for them.  They were exposed to the eyes of hawks and Blue Jays…Mom was no longer there to protect them.  And, she had stopped bringing them food.  Her job was done.  It was time for the nest to be abandoned.  The baby birds were ready to fly away from the nest she had prepared for them.

They were on their own.

As realization set in, the little birds became jumpy, unsure, afraid.  And, it was that flightiness that prompted them to allow instinct to drive them from the nest and take flight on the air their wings were created to beat.

It’s been 6 days since we last saw the baby birds. The last one to set eyes on them was Hubby – and that was as they touched down in the grass.

I can’t help but wonder – if the momma bird continued to feed and protect her babies, would they ever leave the nest apart from being pushed out by siblings or tumbling from the edge?  The nest, built with twigs, is intended for temporary use only.

I also can’t help but wonder if we do our own children a disservice by encouraging them to become safe and secure in the home we’ve made for them.  Children are born to grow up, to move out, to embrace their own lives.  Like baby birds, they should take flight.  We humans should look to our bird friends for instruction in raising our young.  The secure nest is temporarily built, the care and provision lasts only as long as they are unable to secure it for themselves. As the young grown, the nest becomes smaller, more uncomfortable…less a fit for them and less fit as well.

Now, I’m sure that when the little birds (that weren’t so little any more) fluttered from the nest Momma Robin was nearby watching.  And, I’m sure she answered their calls and guided them to safety.  She didn’t fly off and leave them without hope or direction.  Birds have better sense than that.  Her goal was independence for her babies.

I wonder…what is our goal for our babies?  And, what steps are we taking from the moment they are born to prepare them and ourselves for the fulfillment of that goal?

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Doe-eyed Dove

While in our backyard, minding my own business and pretending to work, I heard something scratching high above my head…in the gutter of the garage.

Several wasps were flitting and flying, dipping and diving around something at the end of the gutter.  As I watched, I heard more scratching, and then a doe-eyed Dove lifted her head above the top edge of the gutter.

I grabbed the ladder and set it below the gutter and ascended, my eyes fixed on the gutter.  Time was of the essence if I was to rescue the dove I felt certain was stuck and being stung by wasps.

As I came eye level with her, I saw that she was not stuck – and the wasps were not attacking her, just flying around her.  She had built a nest there…in the gutter…between the end of the gutter and the opening that leads into the downspout.

She watched me as I looked at her.  Big, soft dark eyes…so like those of a doe.  She made no attempt to fly away.  And, I made no attempt to touch her.

Unwilling to scare her any more than I, no doubt, had already, I descended the ladder and returned it to the garage.

What an odd place to build a nest!  I’m not familiar with the nesting habits of doves and I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to selecting a site and building a nest, I’m the last to ask advice of.

But, to me, this particular placed seemed filled with risk and danger to her brood.  If they survive, what would keep them from tumbling into the hole and down the downspout?  And, what would happen when summer rains fell and flowed from the roof in a torrent, filling the gutter?

As I thought on the dove and her precariously placed nest, I headed off to truly get some yard work done – at Mom’s house.

Mid afternoon, the sky grew dark and thunder rumbled.  Huge drops began to fall from the laden clouds, lightning flashed and then the bottom fell out as heavy drops the size of quarters fell like hail.

I was caught out in it. The drops were so large and so heavy that they actually hurt when they struck me.  I fretted about the dove and her eggs/babies.  Would they be okay?

It was after 6 when I arrived home.  My first thought was to check on the dove.  Out came the ladder and up it I went.

There she sat, doe-eyed and blinking.  And, dry.  Her nest seemed dry as well.  How could that be?

I looked around.  Did it rain at my house like it did at Mom’s?  I know cloudbursts can differ, but I’m only a block away from her house.  The ground was wet.  Yes, it had rained at my house, too.

But…how did the Dove and her nest remain DRY throughout it all?  The water would have poured from the roof…right on top of her and into the gutter.

I don’t understand.

Perhaps an Unseen Hand sheltered her and diverted the flow pattern from the roof above her.

I think back on times I’ve been certain that same Unseen Hand protected me when it seemed all was lost.

It’s comforting to know that I can worry about things other than the Dove and her brood.  It seems Someone else is watching over them.

Robin’s Nest Revisited

(Note: This was begun Thursday, June 13 and additional information was added on days following.)

Last Wednesday (June 5), as I exited the front door, I noticed activity atop the old Robin’s nest on our front porch.

A female Robin was placing small sticks in the old nest.

Upon closer inspection, I found that she had built upon the old one.

I watched as three times she left the nest and returned with small twigs in her mouth.  Each twig was placed just so and then she settled her body into the nest…and wiggled!

I’ll admit, I was surprised.  And, I was glad I’d not torn out the old nest that rested between the gutter and front porch post.

Was it the same Robin that raised a clutch of eggs earlier this Spring?  I have no idea.

Will she return to nest here again?

I don’t know.

And, I’ve not seen the Robin since.

Each day, this past week, I’ve watched and waited for her appearance. Perhaps she slips in when I’m not home, or not watching.

Perhaps she decided on a safer, more secluded spot to raise her babies.

Perhaps the 7 ft tall potted house plant I recently placed beside the post, directly under the nest, scared her. It scared me this morning when I went out to water potted plants on the porch.  It has grown long serpentine stems that wave about in the breeze –  somewhat like a snake whipping about when climbing as it looks for a secure “hand hold” as it slithers upward.

(I pause here to go outside and break off the long snake-like stems.)

The nest looks perfectly formed – the nest-builder, a pro.

I hope she deems the nest safe and returns to raise a family.

Of course, it’s possible that she’s already laid eggs and the warm temperatures (mid 90’s) don’t require her constant attention to the eggs.

Time will tell, as time always does.

(An hour has passed since the previous was penned. Wind blew the huge houseplant off the porch – twice. The second time it blew off, I left it where it landed – heavy pot on the ground, the plant leaning up against the edge of the porch.)

Friday morning, June 14 – I looked out and saw the Robin sitting in the nest!  What a surprise!

Several checks over the past two hours reveal she’s not moved from her position.  Does that mean she is incubating eggs? If so, I hope they all survive and the snake like whipping stems on the plant didn’t keep her from eggs she had already laid.

It’s odd that the potted plant twice blew off the porch in the light breeze we had yesterday. It had weathered strong winds/storms in the past two weeks it has spent tied to the post of the porch.

Yes, tied.

And, add to that the fact that the pot the plant is in weighs more than I can lift (and I can lift a lot) or easily push across the porch…and that the morning after the plant falls off the porch, the bird returns and sits on the nest for what I’m certain is the first time in a week.

Like I said…it’s odd.

Was there a Providential Hand in the breeze yesterday?

(Two hours after this was written, four hours after first noticing her on the nest, I looked out and saw the nest vacant. I went out to move the plant to the other side of the porch using a hand truck.  After loading the pot onto the base of the handtruck, I leaned it backward and took the weight of the plant upon myself as I began to back away from the porch. As I did so, the plant spun around as its weight shifted and a long stem, that I had somehow missed, whipped around and smacked against the extended elbow of the down spout – right beside the nest.  The Robin had returned and stood on the edge of the nest, unknown to me, and the stem scared her away.  As I play the brief scene over and over in my mind, I wonder if the stem hit her as well as the gutter.)

Saturday morning, June 15 – the Robin has not returned to the nest.  At 7:30 this morning I stood at the window and watched a Robin alight on the cable TV wire that runs to our house within 4 feet of the nest. It looked at the nest and then flew into a tree across the street.  Was it the Robin that built the nest?  I’ve no idea.

All I know is that my heart broke again, as it did yesterday when I scared her away.

I’ve not yet looked into the nest to see if there are any pale blue eggs that languish for lack of their warm mother’s body.  I can’t bring myself to do so – not yet.

(8:59 a.m. – She’s on the nest!  For the first time since yesterday morning, she sits on the nest!  My heart soars!)

Monday, June 17 – The Robin remained on the nest most of Saturday, leaving to hunt for food and quickly returning.  She was upon it Saturday as daylight faded, and upon it still Sunday morning.

Today as the sun rises, she sits on the nest – apparently content and relaxed as she looks out on the world below her.

Tuesday, June 18 – Rain fell all night and this morning it’s cool and foggy.

The Robin was standing on the edge of the nest when I looked out my living room window to check on her.  As I watched,she leaned into the nest and moved something around.  Perhaps she turned the eggs – I don’t know.  She then settled herself into the nest oblivious to my watching eyes.

Does she have eggs?  It appears so!

How many?  I’ve no idea.

Are they viable?  Time will tell.

Will I keep you updated?  You betcha!

Robin Account

April 22 – Sunday – Warm – Eggs are in the nest, how many remains to be seen.  Momma bird sits and flies off to eat, returning to sit again.  She repeats this throughout daylight hours.

April 23 – Monday – Warm – Momma bird off and on nest.

April 24 – Tuesday – Warm upper 70’s – Momma bird off and on the nest, never leaving it more than a few minutes.

April 24 – Wednesday – Rain – Momma bird does not leave the nest from what I could tell.

April 25 – Thursday morning – Momma bird on the nest – cold early.  Temp warmed to mid 60’s late afternoon and I noted both birds foraging for food and eating all they found.  momma bird was on the nest fat and satisfied before dark.

April 26 – Friday a.m. – cool. 6:30 a.m. Momma bird on the nest.  11 a.m. Momma bird off the nest foraging for food.  Papa bird in the tree watching me and the nest. 4 pm both birds searching for food. dark – momma bird on the nest

April 27 – Saturday a.m. – cool rain.  6:30 both birds on the nest attend baby or babies – feeding or cleaning or something.  Action one of the birds took appeared to be “pecking” into the next and I assume it was feeding babies.  9:30 a.m. both birds hunting food in the rain, walking the yard with eye turned toward the grass looking for worms/bugs.

April 30 – Monday – 82 degrees with bright sunshine. Daughter reported seeing 3 baby birds as one of the adults fed them. Didn’t see either bird on the nest during daylight hours.  My guess is feeding the babies is a full time job now for both adults.

May 1 – Tuesday – Both birds are active in caring for babies.  2 pm both adults were on the nest feeding them.

May 2 – Wednesday – 6:45 a.m. One bird was on the nest, then the other flew up and joined him/her. The one that had been sitting on the babies, flew off down to the edge of the road where two doves were pecking around.  The one that arrived fed the babies and then gently wiggled and settled down on them. This one has a big patch of white behind its legs and appears larger than the other.

May 6 – Monday – 6:45 a.m. – Momma bird fed in our front yard and then flew across the street to a tall tree 100 feet or so from our house.  I assume she has a new nest.  She and hubby were “fighting” a few days ago and I’m certain the squabbling I saw was more of a mating dance.  Babies fill the nest – four heads and beaks stick up above the edge of the nest.  I wonder how they can move they are so tightly packed within it.

May 7 – Tuesday – 8 a.m. – Poppa bird is busy hunting for worms and bugs. Momma helps some, but not often.  Baby birds no longer have just gray fuzz and beginnings of flight wings that they had Sunday morning.  Their feathers look more adult.  The babies have grown so large that they can no longer all four sit crammed together within the nest. Two have moved more to the “top” of the bunch and sit somewhat atop the other two.  I wonder how they keep from falling out.  Their movement seems jerky and uncoordinated.  I worry that they will tumble out of the nest too early.  Hubby cut the grass late in the day.  I counted babies to make sure there wasn’t one on the ground.  Do Robin babies do like Mockingbirds?  Do they drop from the nest before they can fly?  Do they screech from the ground for the parents to find and feed them?  If they do, how will we keep from stepping on them?

May 8 – Wednesday – 6:45 a.m.  I had to look twice to make sure what I was seeing were baby birds and not two adult birds.  It’s amazing how quickly the babies are growing now.  Two birds are quite evident as they perch near the edge of the nest.  They are almost the size of their parents.  And, the feathers on their chest have developed a slight rust hue.  It must be exhausting for the dad to continue to feed and satisfy the appetites of these babies.  Four huge baby Robins.  I hope they all live to have babies of their own.

May 9 – Thursday – And, then there were three.  The fourth baby was no where to be seen today.  I’m unsure if he disappeared today or sometime yesterday. Hubby cut grass yesterday evening and I wondered about the babies then. And, hoped they were all safely in their nest.  Not far from the nest is a large clump of Peonies.  Perhaps the little one has taken shelter there.  Wherever it is, the parents are not feeding it – at least I’ve not seen them do so.  They (yes, both) go only to the nest with worms and I’ve not heard a baby bird crying for attention.  In fact, I’ve heard NO noise from the baby birds at all.  Apparently they are not like Mockingbirds who tumble from their nests and run about on scrawny legs and squawk and complain until a parent finds and feeds them.

May 10 – Friday – 6:45 a.m. The three in the nest are huge. Their rusty red breasts are very evident as they sit upon the nest.  Tail feathers are only nubs, but they are growing.  More like adult robins they appear this morning.  I watched both parents feed the birds within minutes of each other and return to hunt for more worms.  Rain is falling today with storms forecast.  I wonder how the remaining three will fare when the wind picks up and the rain blows against them.  There’s no way to hunker down and ride it out now.  I don’t see how the three robins are able to remain in the nest.  Before the day’s end, one will probably tumble out.  I read that only 1 out of 4 baby Robins make it to maturity and raise babies of their own.  That means of the 4 I have watched grow, only 1 will live to be 1 year old.  10:00 a.m. – two babies remain in the nest.  One of them perches on the edge of the nest, awaiting the return of the parents, stretching and fluttering it’s little wings.  Its tail feathers look like they’ve grown a half an inch since earlier this morning.  I look around for the two missing and don’t see them.  1 pm – one baby and only one remains in the nest.  I watched off and on for an hour and a half and didn’t see either parent arrive with food.  The baby watched, too.  Hungry and eager to eat.  His/her movement was erratic and jerky – but it exercised its wings, stretching and fluttering, then preened it’s feathers and settled in for a nap as it tucked its head under its wing. I had not noticed any noise from the babies at all until this bird was alone.  And, I noticed he/she would utter a harsh “CHURP” from time to time as if calling to parents. At times it teetered on the edge of the nest and I held my breath afraid it would topple out.  I left the house about 3.  Daughter sent a text at 3:45 to say the final bird left the nest as she was entering the house.  It fluttered from the nest and into the window, bounced off and fluttered to the ground. It appeared to be okay.  One of the adults flew down and landed beside it and led the baby away.  She captured video of two of the babies.  4:30  pm – Hubby and I headed out to walk and we saw one of the baby robins hop onto the bumper of Daughter’s car.  His/her chest was rusty red with spots and splotches on it.  Legs were long and scrawny – “bird legs” and he seemed lost.  Daughter said that when the last bird left the nest he had seemed confused and afraid to do so but either fell or launched himself and once on the ground looked up toward the nest as if to say, “Oh no!  What do I do?  Why did I do that??”  At least one of the parents was attentive to the two babies we saw – feeding and watching.  And, from time to time, we would hear the harsh “CHURP” of a baby Robin.

May 11 – Saturday – 6:45 a.m. – Daughter saw two baby birds in our side yard, just beyond the fence that separates the front from side yard, only feet from where she videoed them yesterday.  I saw two robins in the front yard searching for worms.  Apparently they continue to care for them fora while after they leave the nest, but when it was time for them to leave, the parents stopped feeding them unless they were OUT of the nest.  Interesting.

May 12 – Sunday – Throughout the day Daughter noted 2 of the baby birds – no longer looking so much like babies. Tail feathers, now long, bobbed along behind them as they hopped. Wings had grown long enough and strong enough to support them in flight.  No longer able to perch low to the ground, they are now able to seek shelter in the trees.  Parents still tend to them and remain close, feeding them occasionally. But, for the most part, Juniors are on their own. Daughter wondered about the other two…what happened to them.  I’ve wondered, too.  Daughter-in-love is awaiting the birth of her daughter.  We are on baby watch.  The doctor said it could be any day now.  Baby birds have left the nest.  It’s time for Grandbaby #1 to leave hers. 🙂

A Full Nest

As Daughter left for work, a Robin looked down on her from its perch in the nest on our porch.

And, then another did so.

At first I thought it was the Dad on the nest and then I realized what I was seeing were “baby” birds.

There are four.  And, they have grown so large that the nest appears to be coming apart from the weight and wiggles of the growing birds.

They look more adult than they do hatching.  Feathers are no longer gray downy fuzz.  Their beaks are long and full sized.  Their appetites are equal to their size – huge.  Four big babies crammed into the little twig nest.  Two of them have to sit on the edge, or on top of the others, to keep from falling out.

When will they leave the nest?  I don’t know – but it won’t be long.

I wonder if they will be like Mockingbirds and drop from the nest before they can fly, squawking to be fed and hiding under bushes – or if they will tumble out full grown and ready to stretch their wings and catch air beneath them.

As large as they are, there is no way they can remain much longer. The nest will come apart.  They will smother each other. They will topple out.

How will they know when it’s time to leave the nest? Will Poppa stop arriving with a tasty worm? Will the nest become too uncomfortable? Will siblings push each other out? Will they flap their wings and find something awakens within them that yearns for more than the nest can provide? Or, will it be the growth of tail feathers that push them from the nest?

I stop my wondering long enough to walk to the living room window and peek out at them.

Four little birds sitting in the nest.  All face East. Two sit “up front” and two in the back.  Dad arrives with a fat worm dangling from his beak and all four open their mouths hoping to receive it.  The one farthest from me and closest to Dad receives breakfast.  Dad flies away and all four mouths close.  The one nearest me slowly turns it’s head my way and looks me over, then turns back to watch for Dad’s return.

They won’t leave today. I doubt they will tomorrow. But, one morning I will look out and find the nest empty…the babies gone.

An empty nest.  That sounds like a sad thing.  But, really, when you think about it – it’s gloriously exciting!  An empty nest means things went right and according to plan.  Mom and Dad did their part and the babies grew up healthy, happy, and capable of living independent lives. And, one day will build nests of their own.

Robin’s Nest

From my front door I watch a Robin on her nest, 5 feet away.

She no longer flies off when the door is opened, or we walk past.

Wednesday morning the wind howled and rain fell, thunder clapped and lightning flashed.  She remained on the nest, securely tucked under the eave of the porch, in the crook of the gutter’s downspout – the nest wedged between it and the right pillar of the porch.

Wednesday night a frost warning was issued. As a precaution, I covered my tender houseplants that now reside on my front porch. I wished for a small blanket to place over the Robin to keep her cozy.

Thursday morning, at 6 a.m., the temperature dipped to 36 degrees. Frost covered the cars and rooftops.  On the nest, only inches from the porch roof, sat the Robin. I wondered how she fared in the cold.  As if in reply, she turned her head to look at me.

Building the nest and incubating the eggs is her job and she takes it seriously.  She rarely  leaves the nest now – only doing so when the day is late and the air has warmed. Yesterday, late afternoon, I saw her hopping around the yard with her mate, devouring insects and vigorously pulling worms from the ground.

When she returned to her nest she looked fat and satisfied.

Papa Robin’s work will begin in earnest when the eggs hatch.  His responsibilities will include feeding and caring for the hatchlings.

As I watch the Robin on her nest, I think of Daughter in Love and Son.  She is now on medical leave and settling in to await the birth of her daughter.  Son hovers, attentive and eager.

If all goes according to schedule our granddaughter will be born mid May – about the time the baby Robins are scheduled to fly from their nest.

Am I excited?  You betcha!