One of the greatest gifts that came my way recently was a gift of nature. A couple of robins who built a nest, just outside my kitchen window. Where vines had twined up a trellis we put on the outside wall many years back. And the twining vines had just left a perfect spot for these robins to build a nest.
When they built it, the leaves weren't even out. Just the twisting strands of vines from years and years. A perfect spot. In a little corner where the dining room juts out just a bit from the house. A place safe from the north and west winds. Where the morning sun would hit the nest and shine most all day long onto the stone walls, that would warm beneath the sun, radiating heat long after sunset.
We watched them bring nest material for a week or so. The female nestling into her space, moving her body to smooth it out, making sure it was safe and snug for herself. And for the eggs she would soon be laying.
We never saw the eggs. The nest was just above the height of the kitchen window. We even lowered the shade a bit, when she was nesting, so she wouldn't be frightened by two people wandering around the kitchen. She was very watchful. And skittish at times. But once she began to sit, she was faithful to her nest. A touching sight to see.
All of this began about a month or so ago. Just about the time I wrote some very painful blogs about torture. I took it as a blessing that nature brought me these two birds, just when I needed a sign from heaven. A comforting sign from Mother Nature in my time of painful writing
I watched as she would get up and seemed to turn the eggs. And poke around in the nest. Making sure everything was just as she wanted it to be. I kept watching in fascination. We've had other birds nest nearby. But in bird houses, where you see them come and go, but don't see much except the coming and going. But this was different. The nest was open - and it was right outside my window. Just feet away!
One weekend, a couple weeks back, I could see the female looking down. And then, at a certain point, I saw her feathers move from beneath her. And a tiny beak poked out. Still, there was no way to know how many. Or much at all. For may days, at least a week or more, even when it was clear the birds were feeding their young, the female continued to nestle over her chicks, keeping them warm, making sure no predator could find them or get at them. Indeed, the nest being protected by two sides of the house, she had chosen well.
And then, finally, little heads were visible. I was sure of one. Then two. Then three. Then four!
Eventually, they grew so big, last week, that the four of them were literally jostling one another for space. I can see now how easily one can fall from the nest. But not these! The vines had leaved and the leaves and vines were so protective I was beginning to wonder if the birds might have difficulty flying from the nest. The parents came more and more often. It really was amazing. Even though I know this happens all the time, everywhere, year after year. This time was my time. I could hardly tear myself away.
So Saturday, when I spent all day writing up a long blog, I set up my computer at the kitchen table. Where I could write and watch. I tried not to miss a thing. But at one point in the afternoon, right about the time I was finally ready to post, one bird had somehow flown.
I had watched them stretch their wings and practice sitting on the edge of the nest, practice stretching their legs, even napping like that. By Saturday they were so alert. Hardly napping any more. Looking around at everything. Looking at me. They looked at me quite a lot. No fear. Just interest. It's kind of amazing to see a baby bird, watching you from its nest.
So one had flown. I later located it because a parent had gone to feed it in the hedge. I redoubled my efforts to watch. Because I wanted to see one fly from the nest. A second managed to elude my vigilance. But now I knew what would happen first. Now I could see that the little birds, far from starting off right from the nest, would jump/fly to a tiny vine near the nest. And fly from there.
Finally, chick number three flew when I was watching. It was really a thrilling sight! A parent robin was waiting on the tree-swing. And flew directly to feed her chick. (I'm guessing it was "her" but really, I don't know.) The little chick fell off its branch in an effort to get the worm. But she quickly flew down and fed it in the ground cover; it didn't fall more than a couple of feet. And it later managed to get back on a branch.
That was yesterday morning. By the time I got back in the afternoon, the nest was empty.
It's empty still. Though I expect Mrs. Robin will soon show up and lay more eggs and go through the same routine again. I'll still be fascinated. This time I'll know more what to expect. But something tells me it never be the same - as the very first time.
Eventually, when the robins get bigger, I expect I'll see Mr. Robin leading them around the back yard, once they're big enough to look for food themselves. I'll think of them as "my robins" and feel a certain sense of pride in having seen them through from the very start of their lives.
I've read that only 25% of eggs laid and hatched survive by the end of summer. That makes me sad. But that is nature's way. I hope these have a good chance to make it!