Of birds and babies

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We are having a little wild kingdom moment outside our tame, suburban home. Somewhere on our property - under the house? behind the garden shed? - lives a particularly smelly skunk. This skunk is not just visiting, we believe. It has set up permanent residence. We know we should call animal control, but have we? No, we have not. Instead, we live with a sense of daring (or dread) every time we open the door to let Clementine the dog outside. She's been sprayed before. We know the drill. And recently, when I was weeding in a particularly fragrant part of the yard, I expected each time I looked up to be staring into the beady eyes of a furry face. So far, thankfully, he (or she) has not made an appearance.

Meanwhile, in the front of the house, in a small tree by the side door, a soon-to-be-mama bird has carefully built a nest and spends most of her days tending her eggs. The egg part I can only surmise, because I haven't yet brought out a chair or step-ladder to look in. And that's because she's always there. The only time she flies away is when I walk out the door, and then she swoops down in front of me and swoops back up into a different tree nearby. Startled, I give a little yelp every time.

Some background: When I was small, we visited friends at a farm in Maine. They had several outbuildings, and we slept in one. One afternoon, I went back to the room, closed the door, and immediately realized there was a bird trapped inside that was frantic to get out. It flew back and forth across the room, flapping its wings. I was terrified. I don't remember who got out first - the bird or me - but I do remember that feeling of being trapped myself. As a result, I've never been the biggest bird fan. I'm more of a bird-avoider.

Which is why it's ironic how happy I am about this mother bird sitting in her nest outside our door. I could do without the swooping, but she's so patient to sit there each day, with her little beak pointing toward the sky. She's so motherly. And what skill to build that nest! I'm impressed with the whole operation. Sometimes, before I get in the car or do whatever it is I've come outside to do, I stand for a moment and watch her, and I think she might be looking at me, too. I suspect she won't stay long after those babies are born and learn to fly, but for now I'm glad she's here.

Update: She did it! The babies are here! They hatched soon after I wrote this post, and no step-ladders were used in the taking of this slightly blurry photo. Instead, a friend of Holt's climbed up on his shoulders and snapped away. Welcome to wild kingdom, baby birds.


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