Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Glad I'm Not a Bird: TWO SAD STORIES

I can't believe I'm sitting here at the computer crying big wracking sobs over a nest of birds. But I think if you hear my tale you'll understand why I'm such a goof.

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.

13 comments:

ethelmaepotter! said...

Oh! My hand went to my heart early in this story and stayed there.

You with your baby wrens and blues; me with my starling babies. Between the two of us, we just can't seem to keep our little ones safe, and neither of us has the heart to hasten the inevitable.

I marvel sometimes that birds continue to build their nests in my trees - what with my cat, snakes, and predatory birds, how do any survive the odds?

Poor Eva Jean - she, of course, had no idea she was doing anything wrong - it's just the nature of our pets to resort to playing and hunting the lesser wild animals. Many times I've caught myself from scolding Spooky when she's dragged in an injured bird or bunny.

(And congratulations on taking a shot at that mockingbird - it's our state bird and therefore illegal to shoot it, but they sure are nuisances!)

lakeviewer said...

O my! I'm in shock. I knew about the cruelty of nature, but had never really experienced it. You must be besides yourself! It makes us thank God to be alive, for anything to be alive.

Bernie said...

Oh sweetie you have such a big heart and I feel so bad for you. I know how much you cared for these birds........Just know I am thinking about you, sending big hugs ......... :-)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I'm so sorry. (I wrote a story tonight on the bird wars on my dock. Headed out there tomorrow to see how its going.) This story is so sad. I didn't know if you leave the eggs, no one will come there again. Oh, the poor bluebirds.

kobico said...

6 foot snake -- I'm glad I'm not the one who had to wrestle it! It's sad to see something so fragile and gentle suffer so much before it's had a chance to live.

glnroz said...

dad-gum it, you have had a double bout of it, with your bluebirds. Next time will be much better, perhaps..

MWebster said...

Oh, Linda, I am so, so sorry to hear about your birds. I have a big mushy soft spot for them. I smile every time I see a chickadee, and we used to have aviaries of finches. I remember when a family of robins nested on top of the column on the porch. They made such a mess, but we were so afraid of disturbing them, or of anything else disturbing them. I walked around in a state of heightened stress until the weaning was done. So I understand how absolutely tragic all this would feel. You're right - nature is cruel, and it does happen all the time - but it doesn't make it any easier to accept. My heart goes out to you.

Jeanie said...

What a sad but too common story of the realities on nature. I understand how sad you feel and I feel very sad for you. It is one thing to know it happens and very much another thing to see it all play out. I know how sad I have felt when we have had nests here that haven't made it. I hope you are feeling a little better today and that you know you did all that you could do.

Donna said...

Ooooh! That WAS sad!! We have had similiar stories happen and I was sad with our children at the time. "Survival of the fittest" is just a philisophical way of trying to make a little sense of it all, I think. Good thing nature does go on!!

Timoteo said...

In spite of it all, life goes on...the quail with all their babies scurrying across my yard--the babies seem to be faster that the adults!

I've come to the conclusion that I should not try to interfere in nature's ways, but when it's in your own backyard, easier said than done.
Of course, when the cats bring a lizard or God knows what into the house, I am obligated to try to save it. I've rescued three or four prairie dogs so far--how they get in here, I don't know! Either the cats are bringing them in, or they're coming in of their own volition through the dog door...cheeky buggers!

yaya said...

A 6ft snake? Are you kidding me..that in itself would scare the pants off me. I'm sorry you lost your little friends. I'm always amazed at how diligent bird parents are. Some humans could use a few lessons.

kobico said...

Linda, I posted a photo of my squash plant for you on my latest entry!

http://kobico.blogspot.com/2010/07/on-lighter-note.html

Deb Shucka said...

Hi Linda. I'm here from Julie's blog and loved reading this story. I've shed my own tears over the sadness of nature, while at the same time marveling that I get to be a witness to the magic of it. Great writing. I'll be back for more.