Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Springtime in Paradise

I'm busy out there counting folks for the census and collecting stories about people. I should have some good stories abut that next week. In the meantime let me just say,in a nutshell, we have some really interesting people out here in the boondocks. Not everyone retires out to the country to escape city life. I think some of them are escaping the law.

A while back a bird visited our front porch and built a nest then laid five tiny white eggs.

The nest was built on top of the rim of the door—too high for me to see inside it.




The only way I could see inside the nest was to move a kitchen chair under it and stand on the chair with my hand held as high as I could get it and blindly take a photo.

I consulted with one of my birdwatchers friends. Joyce asked me if we had any mud around our house. Did we have mud? This was one of the wettest winters in my memory. Every single vehicle we owned had been stuck in the mud multiple times. "Deep-Stuck" in the mud when you have to get the tractor to get it out. And a couple of times even the tractor got stuck. Yes, we had an abundance of mud. So she told me with great authority that what I had there on my front porch was an Eastern Phoebe. That was news to me. I had never heard of an Eastern Phoebe. Do they make western versions of this bird? It just looked like your average brown bird and all brown birds look alike. And aside from a pretty interesting looking nest made of mud and twigs this bird didn’t do any tricks.

Once she had laid her eggs the mother disappeared for a day or so but when she returned to sit on the eggs she was as devoted as they come. I think she sat there for about a week or two. She obviously had a much better attention span than I did when I was a young mother. The only time she ever left the nest was when we came in or out the front door. Then she would flutter around our heads and fly up into the trees around our house. We wanted to do everything we could to encourage her so we blocked off the front door and used only the back door.

Another period of time passed and one day I looked up and saw that she was gone. Using my marvelous new camera technique of the kitchen chair and camera held over my head I checked the resulting photo and found tiny featherless birds.


For another couple of weeks we stayed away from the babies as much as we could. I would periodically take a picture to see how they were growing. All this time the new chicks never uttered a peep. I guess this is nature’s way of not drawing attention to themselves. I know some people who would benefit from this practice. They grew big enough that I marveled that all fit inside the nest. The most I ever counted was four. But there had been five eggs and I worried about that fifth one.

Then one day I counted five birds and realized that the nest was so small that one bird was always at the bottom of the heap. I hope they rotated this job. Surely it can’t be any fun to spend all your time with your brothers and sisters sitting on top of you.



Then yesterday I heard peeps. I looked around for Mom. She was nowhere to be found. Maybe cutting off their food was her nudge to spur them off to their own lives. Once again, I know some human families who do this very thing. It turns out we have a lot to learn from birds. Then I spotted bird poop all over the floor under the nest and I was ready for them to leave the nest. These birds were becoming slobs. But first I needed one last picture of them before they flew the nest.

I got my kitchen chair and the camera. I Opened the front door but didn't bother to shut it since this would take only a second. I held the camera high over my head and pointed it towards the nest while five birds stared me straight in the face. I hadn’t given too much thought to how intrusive I had been to these chicks. They had no option but sit there while I took their picture day after day. Maybe I had over-photographed them. Maybe they weren’t too fond of my flash going off in their faces. They didn't have very happy expressions.

Suddenly there was a fluttering of feathers somewhat akin to what you might expect at an explosion in a pillow factory. All five fluttered around my head and eventually out into the trees about one heartbeat before I had an actual heart attack. They knew how to fly!! Mother Nature had emerged victorious! They didn't need any practice flights. They were old enough to find their own way in the big world. I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself and called out this news to Beaven. “Yes, he answered slowly, but what are you going to do about that one?” and he pointed out our new boarder perched on the wall between the living room and kitchen.


I'm sure that knowing me you're probably expecting a couple of paragraphs here on the hilarious picture of me trying to catch the bird. It has the makings of such. But I learned, instead,it isn’t really that hard to catch a baby bird who doesn’t have a lot of flying experience. In two grabs I was able to capture it and replace it in the nest. He sat there in the nest catching his breath and enjoying how much more room he suddenly had. But after about an hour I figure he got jealous of his siblings who were chirping to him from the oak trees in the yard and he flew away.

Just in case anyone gets homesick for their nest, I'm going to give the babies another day before I carefully take the nest down and store it for use as a cool Show and Tell. In the meantime, I washed the bird shit off the front porch and got everything ready for next spring. I love living here.

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