Listen to the Birds: Do the Best You Can

April 2017

Two Aprils ago, I blogged about a momma and poppa House Finch who built a nest on my front door wreath. I had the privilege and joy of witnessing the various stages of their nest and babies’ development–from the first few twigs in late March to an empty nest in early May. Awe-inspiring!

A pair of House Finches—I assume the same pair—went through the same process in the same place last spring. Repeat visitors! I guess they were happy with the way things had gone the previous year. I sure was happy to see them and their new sweet brood.

This past March, I was behind schedule. I hadn’t yet put up the spring daffodil wreath. On the door still hung the white flower wreath, the “filler wreath” between the holiday pine wreath and the daffodil one.

When I heard that familiar sound on the other side of the front door—that dainty scratching of twigs against the door during nest building—I knew the birds were back. Yay!

Later that day, I took a peek at the beginnings of the nest. And I worried. The base of the white flower wreath wasn’t as wide as that of the daffodil wreath. Would the white wreath provide enough support?

I thought about switching it out with the daffodil wreath, but I didn’t want to throw away the birds’ hard work. So I left up the white wreath. (Yes, this decision would continue to haunt me.)

Over the next week, a beautiful nest appeared. I still worried. Not only was the white wreath not as wide, but the birds had placed the nest somewhat off-center from the top. In addition, the outer layers of the nest didn’t appear as tightly constructed as the two in the past. This nest was lovely in its wispy way, but would it be sturdy enough?

The first egg appeared! I still worried. I asked my handy husband, Rob, to build something to support the nest.

His reaction? “It’s best not to mess with nature.”

I couldn’t bear the thought of the eggs/baby birds falling from the nest. Rob reconsidered and added cardboard and plastic below the nest. It looked comical. I felt better. But I still worried.

Four more eggs joined the first one. Momma bird sat atop the nest, warming and protecting her eggs. Poppa bird watched vigilantly from a nearby tree branch.

The five eggs were replaced by five baby birds! Momma and Poppa tended to them faithfully.

But as the babies grew, the weight turned the wreath a bit counterclockwise. I moved the wreath back to its original place. It was time for more intervention! I taped the wreath to the door (knowing that the tape would pull off the paint, but who cared at that point?). It looked even more comical. I felt better. But I still worried.

Then one day, I pulled into the driveway after work and found this sad sight:

The nest had come undone. I ran to the door. There was no sign of the birds. Except for a trail of poop that increased near the base of a nearby column.

Could it be? Could the babies have scurried underneath the column? Were they hiding there?

If the babies were there, I didn’t want to scare them. So I left and didn’t return.

I felt awful. And I still worried. I regretted not having switched out the white flower wreath with the daffodil wreath. I wondered if I shouldn’t have pressed Rob to build that cardboard and plastic contraption, or if I shouldn’t have taped the wreath to the door. I wished I had laid down soft padding in case of a fall…

But soon, I saw Momma and Poppa hanging around the base of the column! Chattering away. Momma poking her beak underneath the column, presumably delivering food. The babies had to be there!

Can you spy Poppa amidst all of that brick and moss?
Can you spy Momma sitting on a nearby branch?

For a week or so, I saw and heard Momma and Poppa every day. The poop oozed out from underneath the column—a great sign! I don’t think I ever felt so happy to see poop.

Ah, those smart, resilient, devoted birds. They amazed me.

But then one day, Momma and Poppa didn’t return. Rob looked under the column. No sign of the babies, either.

Maybe it was their time to fly away! At the same time, I worried: maybe something horrible had happened to the babies.

I’ll never know if there was a happy ending; there’s a lack of closure. But that’s life: sometimes, it’s messy. On top of all of that, I wonder at once if I made the process worse and if I’m assuming too much blame.

The previous two years, the birds’ journey was downright inspiring to witness. This year, my awe was mixed with stress, because of the family’s bumpy road and the babies’ uncertain “ending.”

And yet, watching the family handle their incredible obstacles was inspiring in a different sort of way: They did their best with what they had.

Another takeaway: I’ll put up that daffodil wreath way earlier next spring. It’ll be waiting for Momma and Poppa. I hope they return! And I sure hope their babies made it safely into the world this spring.

Until we meet again,

Amy

2 thoughts on “Listen to the Birds: Do the Best You Can

  • June 11, 2019 at 6:08 am
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    Aww…you told the story of the finch’s family this spring with lots of real feeling…At first of anticipation, then hope and vitality, then loss and the unknown…it makes one’s mind wonder what the end of this finch’s family tale was…a happy or tragic one…?

    ,

    Reply
    • June 13, 2019 at 3:16 pm
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      Thanks, Mom. Yes, a mix of feelings, possibilities, and realities–just like life. I hope it was/is a happy ending for those sweet birds!

      Reply

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