Tuesday, May 1, 2012

B37. My Baby Birds

Friday, April 6 I went out to my screened in back deck to clear away the pollen for my family to come for Easter.  As I came out of the house I noticed that a bird flew from the corner above the outside doorway.  Seeing a pile of debris there, I had the fleeting thought that she might have been constructing a nest there, but I was focused on my work and soon forgot her.

The next day, Saturday, the same thing happened, and later that afternoon it crossed my mind again, and I went back out with a step ladder to see if there was a nest.  The angle was difficult, and the ceiling kept me from getting high enough to see far into the nest, but there was definitely a nest, beautifully and symmetrically constructed.  I went for my camera, thinking maybe I could blindly angle it and tell whether there might be any eggs.  Even the camera was awkward, because I couldn't see what I was taking and was just clicking and hoping, and I couldn't back the camera away enough to get a good focus.

But I got it!  3 deep blue robin's eggs!  No mistaking them!

The next day, Easter Sunday, my family had lunch on the deck, but after that I limited my visits to once a day, except for watching from the living room window.  The mama bird would fly to a nearby tree branch as soon as I came out, and then return soon after I went back inside.  Every day I climbed the ladder and peered inside to be sure there were still 3 eggs.

All that week and the following Monday the mama robin sat diligently, rarely leaving the nest and never for long.

On Friday, April 13 for the first time she allowed me to sit quietly on the deck a while before flying away, a privilege I got to keep for the next several nest days, as long as I didn't get too close.  Every day I visited less than 5 minutes, and checked the nest once.

I had been reading up on robin eggs, learning the incubation period for eggs was about 14 days and that generally one egg is laid per day, but I didn't know how long these eggs had been in the nest before I found them.

Tuesday morning, April 17, before leaving for work, I noted the mama bird was much more active at the nest than I had previously seen her, but I peeked out the door and saw and heard no sign of any baby birds, so I decided not to disturb her until I returned.

At 4:30 I sat on the deck watching her for about a minute.  Nothing seemed unusual.  Then she flew, giving me my opportunity to look into the nest.  With my limited view I could only make out one egg at first.  Then I saw something brown, and it moved.  I had a baby, or maybe two!  Only the camera would be able to tell me, hopefully!

Oh, how I wish I could focus, but there's no doubt!  Definitely a baby robin!

The next day, Wednesday, I didn't let myself disturb the mama bird until I got home about 5:30, and she really didn't want to leave the nest.  I felt bad getting so close to her, but my face was probably within 6 inches of the nest before she flew.  Just as I expected and hoped though, there were now two!  I won't get that close again.  If she is that protective I will respect that and give up my peeks.

Still no clear view, but oh so adorable!

Thurs. morning while the mama bird was away from the nest, I stepped out onto the deck, and both the mama and daddy birds flew in immediately to protect the nest.  After work I caught her away again and got a peek.  There was still one egg and two birds, one of which was moving slightly, but not opening for food as expected, and I couldn't see the other one well enough to know it's OK.  Please live, little birds! 

After reading a little more about newly hatched babies, my worries lessened.  It seems their inability to hold themselves up and their peeplessness (I made up that word!) are to be expected for the first few days.  What a relief!

Fri. morning, Apr. 20 I smiled as I watched breakfast time from the living room window.  The daddy bird was on the nest feeding the babies, and the mama bird was sitting on the ledge with a worm in her beak, awaiting her turn.  As the daddy flew from the nest, the mama bird hopped up to the nest and took her turn feeding.  After work I waited for her to leave the nest, and I went out for my daily check.  A 3-day-old baby, a 2-day-old baby, and still one unhatched egg.  The babies were still inactive, just snuggling together on the floor of the nest, but they are noticeably growing.

The next few days, lots of worms . . . but otherwise the two babies mostly just slept on the nest floor. Every day though they grew bigger and bigger and bigger.  By Sunday I had resigned myself to the probability that the third egg was not going to hatch, but the mama bird continued to sit, and both the mama and the daddy continued to bring worms constantly.  I watched mostly from the living room window and occasionally from outside.

Above: See the nest over the doorway.  Mama bird and daddy bird both worked steadily to provide lots of worm meals.

By Sunday, Apr. 22 look how big the babies are!  Still just lying down though, and I have yet to hear them chirp.  They are 5 and 4 days old, and you can see the third egg still in the nest.  Compare the bird and egg size in this photo with that of the previous photos.

From my usual living room watch spot, you can see the mama bird sitting on the ledge holding a huge worm that's heading for the nest.

Wed., Apr. 25: I'm getting concerned about my baby birds again.  They are 8 days and 7 days old today and still just lying on the floor of the nest.  There's been little movement the entire week, but they are definitely eating and growing.  They now take up the entire nest floor. They should be leaving the nest in one more week.

Thurs., Apr. 26: Ah, hope returns!  The two babies were much more active this afternoon, still without peeps, but stretching their necks, holding their beaks open, and moving around enough under the mama bird to make her sitting a bit wobbly!  The babies appear to be almost as large as the mama, although still lying down, it can't be well assessed, and they are now covered in downy feathers!

Sunday, April 29:  Ah, what beautiful little birds!  I should prepare myself for "empty nest syndrome" within the next couple of days!  Below: The two are peeking out. Then one shows off his/her feathers.

Tues., May 1: The past two days I have watched only from the living room and mostly crouched behind the sofa so I don't scare the babies.  I know their time to fly is near, and I don't want to scare them into jumping from the nest too soon.  The parent birds were more adamant than ever that I stay away - squawking at me, tweeting loud warnings to each other, and flapping their wings at me.  This evening one of the babies sat perched on the ledge (beside the nest) for hours, just looking around and occasionally spreading its wings.  I think tomorrow will be the day.

Wed., May 2: At 6:30 this morning the fluffy round baby was still on the ledge, pacing back and forth, raising its wings occasionally. 10 minutes later when I looked out, it had flown.  Not knowing whether this one was the first or the second, I cautiously went to the nest and found no little birds.  My brave little friends have set out on their own, leaving their nest empty except for their lingering feathers and the lone unhatched egg.  

A shadow of sadness hovers as I look upon the empty ledge, even that I can step out onto the deck without provoking parental squawks.  What joy these little birds have shared with me over the past month.  And yet, the joy lingers, both at the precious memories of such a special gift from God and at the knowledge that the little birds survived.  I will see their faces in every robin that ever hops around my yard, and each one will be more precious than ever before.  Now as I sit on my deck and as I take my daily walks, I will distinguish the cries of distress amidst the bird songs and smile in recognition of all the daddy birds standing watch on the ground over their little families that are hidden in the trees.  And I think for several days, as I walk through my living room, I will be checking the ledge, just in case someone should return for a visit. 


Deborah said...

What a story! I was on the edge of my seat waiting... watching with you as those babies hatched. Thanks for sharing this journey!

Kathy said...

Deborah, you and your sketch pad would have loved it!!