By ERIN O'BRIEN It's a bit like being expectant godparent. Or perhaps arriving home to squatters. Our evergreen Christmas wreath arrived before Thanksgiving and lasted beyond St. Patrick's Day, when I finally relocated it to the back porch. It seemed to
It’s a bit like being expectant godparent. Or perhaps arriving home to squatters.
Our evergreen Christmas wreath arrived before Thanksgiving and lasted beyond St. Patrick’s Day, when I finally relocated it to the back porch. It seemed to be shedding unusual materials, so I stood on the bench and peered over the top of the wreath. A petite twig nest lined with dryer lint rested there, and inside, four tiny Tiffany blue eggs.
Our back porch is for my collection of found objects, bird nests I’ve come across in the grass, and a cast-off birdhouse from someone else’s fence. But unlike a hermit crab that makes its home in a discarded seashell, a little mother bird eschewed the pre-fab housing to build her own nest in our Christmas wreath.
The mother robin, whom I have dubbed Mrs. Robinson, regards me from her perch, and I give her a wide berth as I pass her humble abode in an huge arc. From a distance I can see her tail feathers extending beyond the nest.
For the past two weeks, my husband and I have taken to using the side door—the long way around, and despite inclement weather—while Mrs. Robinson and her eggs are sheltered from the rain and late snow on our back porch. She patiently observed as I taped signs on the porch for the gardener, the milkman, and any delivery person who might enter her domain.
I well know the danger of interfering with a mother bird and her young. I recoil at the childhood memory of a mother bird dive-bombing my two friends and me on our way home from the library, carrying a baby bird we’d found on the sidewalk, on my Laura Ingalls Wilder library book. Not just any baby bird – her baby bird.
Mrs. Robinson has a noisy new neighbor. A woodpecker has taken up residence on our roof. He’s as regular as a rooster, hammering away at the aluminum pipe in our chimney every morning. The sound ricochets off the garage, just like a drum roll. Inside, it sounds like an entire drum corps in the fireplace.
A fellow robin—presumably Mr. Robinson—a mature specimen with a rusty vest, resides across the porch in honeysuckle vine in an abandoned nest. He often scurries across the grass, suddenly stopping as if he has forgotten something, before continuing on his errand.
When the mother bird is startled, she leaves her nest for a nearby tree by the kitchen window, and waits until the danger has passed. She alights on the lawn beneath the tree beside her mate, while I observe as he deftly yanks an earthworm from between the blades of grass.
Yesterday there was a chorus of birds outside the back door. The male robin made frequent trips back and forth in front of the kitchen window. Cautiously passing by the porch, from a distance I searched for the mother robin’s tail feathers.
Tonight my husband hurried inside and whispered, quite loudly, “The babies!” He’d looked for the telltale tail, and not seeing it, checked the progress of the growing family. I tiptoed outside and climbed on the bench for first time since the day I’d discovered the eggs. I held my breath. Four sleeping downy creatures filled the nest. Smiling, I tiptoed back inside.
In a couple of weeks the family will have outgrown their first home. The four fledglings will fly and find their own food.
Somewhere a new nest in will appear in another old wreath. And we’ll reclaim our back door.