My beloved bluebirds nested three times this season, a record here on Bickley’s Pond. Still that is not the most surprising thing that happened around here this summer. This is.
One precious teenager, whom we assume was born of the early brood, started hanging around during the last hot days of the third nesting. It was mid-July and Mama and Daddy were very busy trying to satiate 2017 babies numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen.
(These loving parents were also, I am quite certain, exhausted.)
Junior waited. And watched.
Then he started hopping about the yard digging for worms and spiders and creepy crawlies. But rather than eating them himself, the youngster flew to the nest time and time again feeding the bounty to his little brothers and sisters.
On Day 17 the brave little babies climbed to the opening, flapped their wings and jumped from the nest for the very first time. I wasn’t there to witness their fledging (I’m sad to say) but I am quite certain their big brother was very close by, cheering them on.
It was a sweet way to spend July, watching this little group, a reminder of the strength of love, the power of encouragement, and the bonds of family, united.
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The bluebird parents and I have had a time together the past two summers doing our best to successfully nest, then fledge, our babies. It’s a saga you know if you are a regular reader of The Daily Grace, but for those are new or who drop by occasionally, it’s gone something like this.
SPRING 2014 I purchase a decorative birdfeeder as a decoration for a party. I place it on a small metal table on our walkout porch. Before I realize what’s happened, a sweet bluebird couple has made a nest and laid five perfect blue eggs!
I fret and fret and fret over that nest and sure enough, five babies emerge.
While we’re on vacation, the unsecured decorative nest box is attacked and I find it on the ground, only three babies still alive. We get it set back up and the parents swoop in knowing just what to do.
The remaining babies survive and eventually fledge!
NEST #1: (Mostly) Successful. (Yay!)
SUMMER 2014 I buy a new nest box, a real one, and mount it to a brick column just a few feet from the old one.
I feel good about its security in this location, but it is SO DANG HOT I don’t know how a Mama could survive in there, much less eggs or babies. Nevertheless the cute couple builds away. She lays four eggs, incubates them for five horrifically hot days, then flies away and abandons them.
I am heartbroken even though I know she knows best.
NEST #2: Fail.
SPRING 2015 THEY BUILD ANOTHER NEST (!) in the next box on the brick column. She lays five eggs.
After several days, she abandons them.
Again, I am heartbroken. Is something wrong? Is there something I should do??? Reason prevails and I leave the nest and the eggs alone. The bluebirds return several days later and build a new nest ON TOP OF THE OLD NEST AND THE ABANDONED EGGS. (I later discover she has put a layer of feathers between the old eggs and the new nest. Don’t you love that?)
She lays four more eggs. I FRET AND FRET AND FRET and, as if by miracle, these hatch! We rejoice and obsess, obsess and rejoice. On Day 5 I come for my morning check-in and find three babies are missing and one is still in the nest, dead. WHAT HAPPENED IN THERE? I wonder.
The next day I see this.
It turns out snakes have no trouble climbing brick columns. (Seriously?)
NEST #3: Fail.
I (immediately) go to the bird store and buy a metal pole, a snake buffer and a new birdhouse. Sweet Tim (immediately) gets it all set up out in the yard, far away from all brick columns, and while he works I sort of pray they will build again, but I sort of pray they won’t. Because by now it is
SUMMER 2015 and UNBEARABLY HOT AGAIN. In its new location the new birdhouse has no shade at all, and, even worse, is baked by the afternoon sun.
Undaunted, the bluebirds build another nest. Over the course of several scorching late-June days, she lays three eggs.
There is no way this can end well, I think.
And this time, neither she, nor I, will be able to get over it.
I do something crazy. I fashion some top and back shade for the nest box out of white styrofoam, attach it with bungee cords, then erect a giant golf umbrella over the top.
It is ridiculous!
I know this, and I do it anyway.
Sixteen days later, which just happens to be the exact time during which most baby bluebirds fledge, I come home from work to find the nest box empty. I rejoice!
Then I worry.
Maybe a snake got to them. Or the hawks. Maybe they didn’t fledge at all!
More than a month goes by.
Just this week I’m standing at the big kitchen window when something catches my eye. It looks to be a bluebird, but it hangs on the side of a branch in a rather inexperienced manner. Could it be one of the babies?
Another bluebird baby comes flying in and lands in the bird bath just below. Branch Bird joins in!
Baby three arrives!
They have the finest time in that water, those babies, splishing and splashing like they’ve never, ever had so much fun.
I have the finest time watching them!
Then they fly away, back to the woods I suppose, where Mama and Daddy are watching and waiting to continue the lessons in flying, landing, hunting for food, eating.
(I have beamed like a proud Mama ever since.)
Nest 4: SUCCESS!!!
30 Days Of Fun III
Did you have some summer fun today? Leave details in the comments below, or better yet, send a photo to email@example.com. You can also post to instagram with hashtag #30DaysOfFunTDG or to my TheDailyGraceBlog Facebook page. I’d love to share it here!
First, the Confederate Flag no longer flies on the grounds of our South Carolina Statehouse. In tribute I humbly offer Columbia poet Nikky Finney reading a poem she wrote in the early morning hours yesterday, just after our lawmakers and Governor Haley put ink to the decision to Take It Down. Its publication comprised the entirety of the front page of this morning’s newspaper. Bravo to The State, and thank you, Ms. Finney, for articulating what so many of us feel. How poignant is your question: Who are we now?
Second, the baby bluebirds have fledged! It is an understatement to call this a miracle, since the last four nests of this devoted bluebird couple have not been successful. You will remember the last sad tale of the morning I woke up to find the five-day-old babies missing–devoured by a snake, we later determined. Our hearts were broken: Mama’s, Papa’s and mine. And so we moved the nest box out into the yard, took preventive snake measures, then fretted as temperatures topped 98 degrees seven days in a row.
I took drastic measures, constructing heat shields and (ultimately) bunji-cording a large golf umbrella above the birdhouse to provide some shade for the eggs and the Mama in that box, baking in the heat.
The eggs hatched, and with all the rigging I’d done to that birdhouse my glimpses into the nest were few and far between. I did keep a close eye on the parents, however, rejoicing each time they flew to the box, dinner-in-beak.
Last night I got home from work and took my (hot) perch on the back porch, waiting and watching for activity. There was none in sight. With each passing minute my panic rose. Where were they? Why weren’t they feeding? What had happened this time???
Two hours and lots of fretting later I began to wonder if there was a chance the babies had fledged. Surely not, I thought, there hasn’t been time. They’re too small. I mean, the last time I got a photo, they hardly looked feathered!
When were they born? How many days had it been?
I tracked it back to the first sighting of Papa with a tiny crawly in his mouth. Seventeen days. Seventeen days! That’s fledge time!
And still I was not brave enough to look. I decided to wait until morning, when my sweet husband, Tim, would be home to assist.
Just today, this is what we found.
I am overjoyed! I believe the three babies are in the woods just there to the side of the Cope’s yard, out of the sun’s direct heat, learning to fly and jump and play. Their parents will continue to feed for the next month, keeping them under cover, safe and sound (we hope) and out of Hawk range. I am going to believe that is the case, anyway.
As for me, now, I have breathed a great sigh of relief and am so happy this dear couple is having this joy. Life is good.
The third thing that makes this one of the greatest days ever? It is the day before I get to go see my own sweet baby, all grown up and spending the summer working at Camp Twin Lakes, a life-changing camp for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges. How proud I am of Eliza for not just wanting to make a difference in this world but for actually doing it in such a special and meaningful way.
My heart is full, my spirit soars. I send you all good wishes, my friend, for a July weekend filled with everything that makes you happy!
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