Remember the nest of wren eggs on the front porch, the porch that gets so hot on a summer morning that touching the steel front door will actually burn your hand? The one in the geranium pot that at one point I covered with the cereal box to shade the eggs and the mama? Well, the two week gestation period ended with no babies. But the mama continued to sit on them for another week before she gave up. THREE WEEKS she sat on that nest in that blistering morning sun, only to have to desert it with no babies to show for it. I think she was a first-time mama and had picked that spot in the shade of the afternoon or evening, but it was just too sad to see her sitting faithfully, unwilling to give up too soon. Yes, it happens all the time in nature. But it was just very sad. I left the eggs in the nest in the pot so that she wouldn't come back to nest again. There were four of them. (pictured above)
But we still had the nest of bluebirds on the deck, remember, who were due at the same time. They hatched (we didn't know how many), and mama and daddy took such good care of them. I marked the calendar when they'd be due to fledge, and the plan was to leash walk the dogs when it was time. Last night (Sunday) at dusk, the mama and daddy were all over the place out back, going back and forth from the nest to the bushes and trees, that thing they do when they're coaxing them out of the nest. The sparrows and mockingbird chose that time to come and harrass them, so that the protective parents had fight them off in order to protect their brood. We took turns at the kitchen window, running out to chase off the sparrows, and David even took a pellet gun to the mockingbird (but missed). I had made plans to spend the night with the grandsons, so left thinking all was well in my bird world.
This morning I called to see how it was going, and David said 'you don't want to know'. I said 'oh no, did the dogs get the babies?', and he said 'no, a snake'. 'ARE YOU ****ING KIDDING ME?' No, he wasn't. He had taken Eva Jean out just after I left, looked over at the nesting box, and saw a six foot snake hanging out of the box. He grabbed my lopping shears and grabbed hold of the snake, trying just to get him out of the box, and pulled and pulled before he finally came out, and, though it was injured, was able to get away. It was dark by this point, so there was nothing David could do until this morning. He looked in the nest, and there was one baby left.
I didn't get home again until tonight (Monday). I was so excited about one baby being left, even though he could have suffered 'crush' damage from the snake (or psychological damage from seeing it's siblings eaten). I'd look out the window now and then to see if there was any activity, and mama and daddy were out there and coming to the nest with a worm, but then leaving with the worm. We weren't sure what that meant. I began to prepare dinner, and without thinking I let Eva Jean out back. Went back to the sink. Looked up to see Eva Jean racing around the yard and tossing 'something' up in the air. I flew out the door and across the yard...to find that she did, indeed, have the baby bluebird.
The little guy, already a dark blue, was barely alive. Neither of us had the heart (or stomach) to put it out of it's misery, so I gently placed him back in his nest, hoping the mama and daddy would find him and realize their job was over, that none of their babies had survived, that they would have to start all over again. (When I put him back, I saw that there was one unhatched fragile blue egg still intact that never hatched and escaped the snakes clutches.) As I stood again at the kitchen window, the anxious parents were sitting atop the dogwood tree, searching the ground for their last baby. (And, just now having checked, I think he is probably dead.)
I know nature can be cruel and that this scenario plays itself out dozens if not hundreds of times a day. But nature can also be beautiful, and I will continue to hold out hope that one day we can see the full cycle of nest making to egg laying to fledging played out successfully in our little corner of the world. But from now on I will post about it after it's a done deal.