A Surprise in the Cardboard Bin

Note, this clever bird has used my molting chicken’s feathers to line her nest.

I have always loved birds. I think it is such a privilege to watch them hatch and raise up their babies. It happens so fast and teaching them to fly is such an exciting and nervous day. Several people i knew had swallows who returned every year to nest on their porch. They would glue newspaper to the side of their house so it would fall off when the birds started constructing their nests or they’d bat the new progress down with a broom each day. These birds were so determined to make their nest in the same place every year that they’d spend the whole season trying to rebuild and rebuild a nest and they’d never lay eggs. I thought it was so cruel. The poor birds never gave up. I killed bugs and left them a trail to my porch from my neighbors, but they ate them and then continued trying to make a nest in exactly the spot they had the first time. As much as i wanted to provide a haven for the poor swallows, they didnt choose my porch, and so i had no swallows. One day i was just fuming mad about something that was said to me by a customer at work. I was just fuming mad about how awful humans could be to each other at times and i had torn my work shirt off, threw it in the laundry, stormed about the yard in a furious manner getting the chores done, all the while muttering about how i’d swear off humanity altogether if i didn’t have to pay the mortgage and property taxes…when i saw a mass of sticks peeking out from my cardboard pile in the old bins with holes in the bottom that i had once used as planter boxes. Could it be?! As i lifted the cardboard gently i expected to find a bird’s nest but what i found surprised me. 5 little fuzzy pink mounds with unopened eyes sat wobbling beneath my gaze. A nest full of babies!!! Oh hallelujah! I finally had birdies! The rest of the day fell away and i couldn’t care less about the people who had been just wretched and awful earlier in the day. My whole brain was consumed with birdies! I named them uno, dos, tres, cuatro, and cinco. Im getting less creative in my thirties. The mother ended up being a little gray bird with a long skinny tail. I wondered if she was maybe an oak titmouse. She was a very attentive mother. She fed them constantly, except for when it rained. Then she shielded them from the weather. I fed the babies crushed bugs a couple times when she was away but ultimately, she was such a tireless and attentive mom, i didn’t want to get in the way of her doing her thing so i started leaving bugs directly beneath the tree she was in or the fence she was perched on. She began taking caterpillars and pill bugs from me and then bringing them to her babies. Whatever i found i put in a cup to leave for the bird next time she returned. I tried to check on the babies growth but it rained for two days straight and before that every time i went to check them she was sitting on the nest.

The next time i got to check them was directly after our two straight days of rain. They had feather tubes and their eyes were open! She had kept all five of them alive during all that drenching rain and wind and cold. I sure was glad there were holes in the bottom of each stacked toy box so the water couldn’t pool. Their mum was a pro. I wondered how old she was. This was not her first rodeo. She had fed all five of them until they were fat and feathered and kept them all warm and dry while she got rained on during the storm. For the first time i noticed an intact egg. I wondered if it wasn’t fertilized or if it had just never hatched. The babies were nearly grown. It was a little too late for it to just be a late bloomer. I suddenly remembered the nest that was in the satellite dish when it came down off the roof. I had put it in the tree behind the house not far from where it had been in the dish. There was one little unhatched egg in that nest too. I hurried over to the tree behind the house to check. Where the nest had been, there was a mass of sticks wedged between a couple branches. It had been taken apart and recycled. She had come back to her nest, found it gone, located it, and rebuilt it with the old materials in a more protected and sturdier spot. It was barely in the tree when i had placed it there. I was preoccupied with all the thorny plants beneath the tree against my bare feet in flip flops. I hadn’t even known the nest was up there until the satellite came down. I missed a whole generation of birds being raised on my roof. But i was going to be able to see this batch, and this meant mama had clearly chosen my house as a nesting place 2 years in a row. This meant she would likely make it a tradition and i would get to see future birdies grow and learn to fly. I was so thrilled! I finally got birds!

Here they are with feathers. I had a couple of finches make a nest in a hanging plant on my patio about 3 years ago. They raised 3 babies. If these birds are anything like the finches they are getting ready to fly.
Almost grown
The nest is empty. All 5 baby birds survived, made it to adulthood, and flew the nest.
The random egg that never hatched was left behind. I had a hunch that it was never fertilized but i wanted to see if my theory would be right, or if a chick had developed and then died before hatching.
My theory was right. It wasn’t fertilized. It was quite rancid. The smell was pungent to say the least. The ants immediately took over and i left them to their work.

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