Thursday, March 18, 2010

BIRTH RITES

The robin picked a risky perch for her nest last spring. I spotted her woven hollow of mud and grass outside my second-floor window where it was precariously anchored between the roof slats of our pergola and the rail moorings above the pergola posts. The wide-spaced roof slats over the nest provided scant protection from the rain. However, the robin's poor choice for a nesting place afforded me a first-class view of her hatching affair.

By early April, three blue-green eggs appeared in the cradle. Sometimes, if the expectant one saw me press my nose to the window, she'd startle and fly away, then circle back. More often, though, when I sneaked a peek, she sat confidently on her nest, adjusting her body over her booty with the tenderest of tail feathers.

It rained.
It rained every day.
April showered the earth with a wealth of precipitation while the wet robin sat on her eggs and fanned her wings over her nest to keep it dry. Sometimes rain fell all night as she continued her umbrella act. Every time I looked, her wings were spread, her body shedding water like a duck.
My arms ached with empathy.

After ten relentless days of rain and wing spreading, I could stand no more. I pulled a sheet of plywood from the garage and flipped it onto the pergola roof over the nest. When the plywood slapped down, the frightened robin flew off. Minutes later, she returned and disappeared under her new roof.

Now I couldn't see the nest. I could only guess what was happening. I didn't mind--I was content as a midwife, thinking the robin was dry and that her babies would come through these perilous days. A week later, the rains stopped and I pulled the plywood from the pergola roof. She was still there--huddling, fluffing, and waiting.

The sun came out and dried the earth.
The lilac-scented air warmed the nest.
And, one baby robin chopped his way into the world while I watched.

Excited, I hurried home from work the next day to see the others. Nothing had changed. Each day was the same. For two weeks, the unborn eggs were coddled while the wild newborn flapped his awkward way around the available space in the nest. With growing concern, I feared the two remaining eggs would never hatch. Then, one day, they disappeared from the nest.

I went into mourning, grousing around the house for days about unfavorable environmental conditions and feeling personally responsible for the under-developed family. A dull grief settled in at my window.

Meanwhile, the hungry hatchling was eating well because he had the undivided attention of both parents. He grew fat and round while his mother dropped food down his gaping gullet. His protective father scuffled and flew at the chipmunks that circled their camp.

I was there for the virgin flight.
Teetering at the edge of the nest, the fledgling robin flapped furiously in the wind, preparing for take-off. Then, lunging, he aimed for a branch in a nearby pine. He missed the tree, but flew--almost gracefully--to the ground near the peonies. Running quickly along the ground on thin, little bird legs, he explored the grassy slope. Moments later, he disappeared from view.

I wondered if the mother robin would return to her nest for a last look around.
She never did.

7 comments:

Dimple said...

This is a very good tale, Becky. It is a privilege to be able to observe a wild bird nesting. Thanks!

Susan Erickson said...

We had a silimiar experience with a stellar jay that nested outside our window one year. It was the highlight of the spring. Such a gift to watch....

lakeviewer said...

My goodness, this is as close as ever view of a nesting situation. You were so involved in this, so desperate to see progress. You midwifed it!

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

Bittersweet...and beautiful.

Jeanne Klaver said...

ohhhh. A reminder to never look back; just fly free...

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Beautiful written story Becky
How lucky you were to be part of this wondrous event... and witness this little birds first flight. you must have been sad when they eventually few away... do you think the mother bird will return this spring? xx Julie

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I share your love of watching the birds. I watched with such pleasure as the baby birds grew in our dock roof. One day watched for six hours as the mother pushed her children out of the nest to prepare for their flight. When in to cook dinner for my family, came back, and they'd flown away. So sad I missed that.

I miss the scent of lilac in the air. We can't grow them where I live. Crepe myrtles instead, but no scent like the lilac.