Sunday, June 7, 2009

Birdland Diaries, Part 1

A few weeks ago, this little lady set up shop under the eaves of our front porch.

Not long after, we heard lots of little chirping and realized there were four little birdlets in there with her (that's a technical term. I know a lot about birds, as you'll learn as you read this post). Throughout the day, we would watch mama bird fly and come back with food to feed all the hungry little mouths, and we all, maybe with the exception of Nora, became much more aware of the not-so-secret life of birds as a result.

One afternoon Sidamo begged me to lift him up high so he could touch the nest. I had to explain why I couldn't (besides the lack of necessary strength). I told him that the mama bird would be upset if she thought someone was trying to hurt her babies. In characteristic conversation style, Sidamo asked, "Why?"

"Well," I said, "all mamas want to protect their babies."


"That's just what we do. What do you think your mama would do if she thought someone wanted to hurt you?"

"Hmm …" he pondered. "I guess you'd feed them."

Another afternoon as we were out on a walk, Sidamo and I stopped short as we saw a robin swoop down about 10 feet in front of us and snag a worm from the ground. We stood frozen and watched as the worm fought back with all its might—it clung to its little wormhole valiantly as it was stretched so taut I thought it would snap. Eventually the robin won out, and the worm was extracted, pecked, shaken, and overtaken. The bird swallowed the worm whole, shook around a little bit the way you'd expect someone to wriggle after eating a worm whole, and summarily pooped. The cycle of life, and digestion, right here in our very own neighborhood.

Back at our home, after a few weeks (or more, or less—ornithology is not an exact science, at least not the way we practice it) the baby birds flew the nest. I cried. Yes, I'm drawing parallels wherever I can find them. But mama robin kept coming back. Or maybe it was just someone who looked like mama robin. There's some debate amongst our experts about whether or not mama birds keep hanging around the nest after the kids skip town. I consulted Google for answers but was sidetracked by all sorts of other interesting information about robins. If any of you other aspiring bird experts out there have any information to refute this, keep it to yourselves:
  • Robins only lay one egg a day, and they lay their eggs later in the morning than other birds.
  • A robin's clutch (which I take to mean "litter") consists of four eggs. She'll keep laying eggs until she gets four. In fact, if you take eggs from her nest before she gets to number four, she'll keep laying one a day until she reaches the magic number. Not that any of us (save one particularly curious chap who thankfully can't reach) would try that.
  • The mama robin won't sit on her eggs until she has a full clutch, because she wants them to all hatch at the same time, and the baby birds don't start developing in their eggs until incubation starts.
What I didn't learn was whether robins lay eggs more than once in a season. Today we had a rare moment of empty nestedness, so I climbed up to see if I could peek inside.

I couldn't see in, so I enlisted the help of my camera (as evidenced by the photos). Do you see what I see in the one below? A teensy glimpse of that telltale bluish-greenish hue?

Here they are: Two precious little robin's eggs, just waiting for siblings three and four to come along so they can start growing together as a family:

And, for Greg's sake, that's where I'll stop drawing parallels between the robin's family and ours.

Aren't they beautiful? I hope to get back out there late tomorrow morning to see if egg number three has arrived. Because anything less than a three-egg omelet is hardly an omelet at all.

1 comment:

rebekah said...

C'mon, go for egg #3, everyone's doing it.