happy endings

It’s a wonder he answers his phone at all, my friend Jay Coles, for when I call there is a 100% chance I am in dire need and the situation is an EMERGENCY. Why just a couple of weeks ago I was looking out the studio window when I noticed a bit of a bird ruckus and caught a glimpse of this unusual site.

Then I saw the Mama and Daddy bluebird were all a twitter, and the other birds were making a racket, and Tim came round to say, “I think the bluebird babies are fledging. I saw one on the grass a little while ago.”

“What?” I said. “WHAT? THEY’RE TOO LITTLE. IT’S NOT TIME. THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY BE OLD ENOUGH TO FLY.”

(Can they?)

I grabbed my phone and quickly flipped to the last photos of the nest I’d taken. It was before we’d gone to the mountains, before I’d lost my ability to MONITOR THEIR EVERY MOVE. I checked the date. I could not be absolutely positively certain but I was pretty ding dang sure these babies were not more than ten days old.

“I’M CALLING JAY,” I said. “HE’LL KNOW WHAT TO DO.”

And he would, I knew he would as he is not only a fellow nature lover, he’s head of Carolina Wildlife Center, a local nonprofit that sees to the needs of innumerable small animals orphaned or injured in the wild. Every year among the thousands they care for are hundreds and hundreds of songbirds. Still deep inside I knew my fledging babies (which were neither orphaned nor injured) were hardly worth an emergency visit. Even if he is my dear friend. Even if he does live four doors down.

“I’ll be right there,” of course he said. (Jay is a saint the good lord sent to keep my feet on the ground, I swear. He has been my advisor and friend and protector on a number of important matters all across my life.) Tim and I waited and watched as the tiny baby hop hop hopped right into the daylilies, disappearing beneath the thick foliage.

Then here came Jay. We located the baby who was now standing on a rock perilously close to the edge of our pond.

“HE’LL DROWN IF HE FALLS IN! DO! SOMETHING! JAY!” At which my dear friend calmly walked over, gently put his hands around the sweet baby bird, then walked him back to the birdhouse.

He also explained, patient teacher to too-eager student: Unlike some other animals, birds are not ‘marked’ by human touch. You can safely pick up a baby and put it back in the nest.

“He IS too little, though. Don’t you think? He is too little to fly?”

“We’ll see,” said kind Jay.

Just about then something farther down the lawn moved, and this caught our collective eye, and we looked to see IT WAS ANOTHER BABY BLUEBIRD.

(Heavens to Betsy. Good lord. Good heavens they must be fledging.)

Jay collected baby #2 and returned it, as well, to the nest.

“BUT THEY ARE NOT OLD ENOUGH. I swear they’re not.”

“We’ll see,” he said. He smiled his Jay smile, then he and Tim walked off, to talk of other things.

THE NEXT DAY I went to work and was (blessedly) too busy to continue with this obsession. But late evening came, and as good fortune would have it Jay stopped by on a completely unrelated matter.

“Sure would love to know how many babies are in that nest!” I said this casually, just passing by, as he and Tim did whatever it was they were doing. “Sure would be grateful if somebody would crack open that box and take a quick peek!” (I would never do it as it can be a danger to the babies once they are older. But he had the know-how, I knew.) And he did, and lo and behold all four were there, and the following day, another check, and whew still all four!

I was relieved and humbly satisfied. And I left those parents to it.

SUNDAY, THEY DID fledge. (Praise hands!) Five days had passed, and my little heart was satisfied AND happy.

XXOO

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If you want to learn more about the important work of Carolina Wildlife Center, or if you need information about how to properly help injured or orphaned animals, click here. (They also have a wish list and opportunities to donate if you are so inclined.)

March Madness.

And now we are racing through March! Where here in South Carolina’s midlands we are blanketed in a layer of pollen so thick it is smothering. Even showering seems a gigantic waste of time.

Has it ever been this bad?

(Do we say that every year?)

But oh, Springtime. With her forsythia and spirea, and the eager green shoots that push through winter-hard ground as if to remind us rebirth is possible. And the green/gold promise of the million baby leaf buds–the billion baby buds–their translucent unfurling the stuff of poetry.

And the birds all a twitter! The possibilities of new love! Courting and preening and feeding, beak-to-beak. Romance all around. Prime spot claiming, be it light fixture, high beam, bird house. Even an old shoe will do.

The building of the nest. One blade, one twig, one feather at a time. One morning’s work, and then another. And more until DONE, there it is, a work of art, a new home, the magical weaving (instinctual as it is) of one little family’s future.

The cradling and nurturing therein.

The risks, the threats, the circle of life.

My, my, my, the drama. It is Spring!

XXOO

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One. Two. Three.

 

I was in my studio one morning recently when I looked out to see this.

 

 

Three bluebirds fussing it out

 

 

over claim to one nest. (Nobody giving an inch.)

 

 

I think I’ll just cheer everyone on!*

 

XXOO

*I would like to amend my POV. I totally agree with my friend, Rosie, who commented below. I do hope the kindest bird wins.

 

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Hope, and Joy, and Love!

I love Spring on Bickley’s Pond. Here, from the big window in my studio, I watch the world come back to glorious life. Everywhere you look there’s something magical to see. I am amazed by the grasses and trees and shrubs, the tiny leaves that appear from nowhere.

But I am most captivated by the sweet animals who share their lake with us.

The Canada Goose couple has been here for years, rearing brood after brood after brood. They’re nesting again and although I don’t know exactly where–the sweet Mama is on the eggs while Papa hangs in our cove keeping an eye out for her and any Canada Goose interlopers.

He floats around out there day after day, waiting, watching. And the moment anyone arrives and lands on his lake, anywhere near his beloved, the most awful racket ensues.

How devoted he is.

And the mallards? (See them there in the distance.) They are the sweetest. They swim side by side every moment, combing the pond and its shoreline for the perfect place to build and bring into the world a new paddling* of ducklings.

You may remember the year they nested right in our yard beneath the day lilies, then that big snake came and ate the eggs. (Well, one snake only ate two or three. The next day the mate came and finished off the rest.)

(mallard eggs, circa 2015)

(egg-filled snake, circa 2015)

Good lord I’m still not over it.

And the bluebirds.

My beloved bluebirds.

We’ve raised seven (?) nests together. And now, after all this time (and all my perfecting of their home sweet home), this Spring there is NO NEST.

I am a little heartbroken.

(Now that I am finally supplying mealworms, there is one male/female combo that feeds. But the female looks to be a youngster.)

I feel worried and fretful over Mama and where she might be. Or maybe this isn’t the original couple after all, and maybe after all those babies they’re off in Boca enjoying retirement and the Early Bird Special. (Forgive me.)

Whatever the case, it is a magical time of year. I am reminded April after April after April:

There’s always, always a new chance for joy!

 

XXOO

*A group of baby ducks is actually called a “paddling.” Isn’t that the best?

 

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Third time’s a charmer

Mama Blue

 

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.

 

Look, Mom!

 

 

Everybody good in there?

 

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.

XXOO

 

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No Rest For The Weary

I spend a lot of time obsessing over the bluebirds that nest in a box in our back yard, something you know a bit about if you are a regular here at The Daily Grace. But this Spring I haven’t been around to keep as close an eye on this precious couple (and their offspring) as I’d like. 

We knew there were eggs, and we hoped there were healthy babies, and we believed some had fledged but we just didn’t know for sure.

Then a couple of weeks ago I spotted this cuteness at the new feeder I’ve placed just outside my studio window. It holds a magical cone of seed and dried worms all of birddom now fusses over.

 

hello baby blue!

 

This sweet little munchkin, who I figure is four…maybe five weeks old, is sitting an inch from a full-on mealworm feast. But he refuses to reach his little beak through the bars to grab one. Instead he sits and squawks and demands to be fed.

Mama’s having none of it.

 

You’ve got to be kidding me.

 

She flies in, eats in front of the youngster, then flies away.

(Which results in an even louder ruckus from the little one.)

Then in comes Papa who does his best to ignore but finally can’t take anymore and pops worm after worm in the mouth of the babe.

 

okay

 

OKAY!

 

It captivated me, this bluebird drama, as I stood back and considered how much the scene resembles my own years-ago baby mothering and that of so many friends in the throes of such today. Parenting is hard. There are so many ways to get it wrong. And there are so few to get it right.

 

 

Love well, I’d think, and then I’d pace and worry. Love well, I still think now, and that will be enough.

Oh yes.

And yet the question remains. 

 

 

Does love fly off?

Or feed?

 

XXOO

 

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The Case of the Missing Bluebird Egg

MY SOUTH CAROLINA LIFE is centered around the sweet pond on which our house and back yard sit. Through the big kitchen window I have a bird’s eye view of all the goings-on, and to get close to the action I merely need step out the side door or take a quick stair step run down to my studio, which is positioned (thrillingly) in the midst of the action.

All this perfect geography gives me the chance to spend the hours of spring All Up In the activity of the co-inhabitants of the little neighborhood. I could not be happier about this; I never get tired of watching the plants and animals as they quite literally come to life during this birth/rebirth season.

This year has been especially sweet.The pond is full again following a couple of long, sad years during which floods, improper sediment runoff management and Mother Nature’s insistence on returning things to their natural state combined to create rather a mess behind our house. But the cove has been restored and the whole of the animal kingdom–snakes, frogs, turtles, beavers, birds, fish, and ducks among them–the whole of the Bickley’s Pond animal kingdom and I are rejoicing.

 

 

MY BELOVED BLUEBIRDS are among them and together we’ve had a rather tumultuous time of it. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’VE had quite a time–to this day I can’t give you an accurate accounting of their first brood of the season. First there was the precious nest, then that one perfect blue egg, then the egg disappeared! And so the internet told me to build a Sparrow Spooker, which I did, fashioning my own emergency version. I watched and watched and watched until the second egg–which would now be Egg One–was laid. BAM I was out the door attaching said Sparrow Spooker to the box (this was per the internet’s very specific directions). By golly it worked! Or else it wasn’t needed in the first place, but either way that couple and I ended up with four gorgeous eggs the second time around. Mama kept them warm while Papa and I hung close and in no time at all we’d hatched two baby bluebirds with two left to go. It was time for a trip to the mountains, alas, so I left the raising of those two, maybe three, maybe four babies to their devoted and quite capable parents.

Dang it.

 

Mama and the spooky Sparrow Spooker

 

And then there were babies!

 

We were away just long enough that when we returned an opening of the nest box would have created a great risk of too-early fledging. I was also busy with work and other things and couldn’t keep as close an eye on the family as I’d have liked. Which resulted in some big worries, I have to say. I never saw the parents feed the babies, not even once, in the first three or four days we were home. I’d watch for a while, then go out and stand next to the box hoping at least to hear sweet bluebird baby chirps. I never did. But every time, without fail, those parents would come swooping down out of nowhere, very unhappy with me and my proximity to their nest, which made me very happy as I figured surely they were protecting their offspring. 

Still there didn’t appear to be any feeding.

No feeding at all.

 

pretty Mama

 

THEN I HEADED north again, this time on my own for a writer’s retreat in Kentucky. I left Tim in charge. He’s great about these things since he’s in the yard so much, humors me so much, and cares as much about such happenings as a normal person does. But let’s face it. I never can get him to hover quite as close as I’d like.

Still I’d hardly gotten my suitcase out of the car when I got this text from my thoughtful husband:

 

 

Soon as I got home we opened the box to sure enough find it empty but for one unhatched egg. That meant there were three little bluebird fledglings flying somewhere around Bickley’s Pond. Maybe? Tim had seen two, and we hoped for a third but we just didn’t know.

(SEE THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO KEEP A CLOSE EYE.)

 

WE WAITED FOUR or five days, then set about cleaning the box. This time when Tim opened it that last egg was also gone. (For the life of me I don’t understand how small birds accomplish that.) He removed the old nest, tidied up a bit in the box and left a clean house for Round Two, should these sweet parents decide it was a go.

A week later we found this.

 

Then this! 

 

There’s no Sparrow Spooker on top as the wind finally brought it to the ground and I’ve hardly had time to construct another. For one thing there is the other bird nest I must monitor. And the baby eagle. And the courting woodpeckers, and the goose families X2. And a big happy surprise right in my raised bed garden!

There is so much more to come on all these wonderful Bickley’s Pond developments.

For now I just go ’round skipping and thinking: Spring, I do adore you!

XXOO

 

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Oh my. Spring.

 

I’ve spent my birding hours by and large obsessed with the sweet Bluebirds. And no wonder–they are treasured friends with whom I have shared the immense joy of two successful nests and the heartbreak of so much else: abandoned nests, overnight attacks, snake annihilation. And so I’ve been tickled this spring to have another birdhouse family to watch. It’s a precious Chickadee couple who’ve taken up residence in a newly placed nestbox placed in perfect view of my dining table bay window. How they dart about, those Chickadees, making my heart sing.

So much so, in fact, I’ve hardly mentioned the front porch nest identified by my cousin, Meg, who knows about such things. She’s a Phoebe, Meg said, when I complained that it was probably a sparrow who would do nothing more than make a mess and attract snakes.

(Still, we’d kept the porch light off and have tried to respect her privacy.)

Until this afternoon, that is, when I made my bird rounds.

First I visited the Chickadee who was hunched down on the nest and didn’t flinch when I opened the viewing hatch.

 

mama chick
Don’t you love her?

 

The bluebird eggs looked fine, but Mama Blue was no where around. This concerns me, I have to say, as she’s abandoned the early nest so many times. (She knows best, I realize. But still.)

 

blues

 

And then I cajoled my husband into bringing the big ladder to the front porch where I might get my first good peek at the other nest.

You could of knocked me over with a feather, so to speak.

 

tucked in close behind the front porch lantern

 

A whole pack of precious baby birds right there at my front door.

 

how many are there?

 

and they're hungry!

 

There they were, tucked in behind one of the lanterns that flanks our front door. I can hardly imagine how she built that nest, much less successfully incubated them!

There’s lots of Phoebe feeding to come. And lots of growing to be done by a whole peck of babies in a tiny, tiny space. There’s also a great risk of nest attack, this I know.

So I will keep my fingers crossed, this time for them all–Phoebes, Bluebirds and Chickadees alike.

Oh, Spring. Oh, my. Spring!

 

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The Bird Feed

keeping watch over the nest box
keeping watch over the nest box

 

First there is the miracle of the sweet chickadees moving (voluntarily) from the bluebird house to their own new box. Their little nest is made of soft green moss and topped with a downy fuzz, so tiny and precious. It is also, unfortunately, difficult to photograph. (Too bad for me, that is. I am sure they are quite happy about this.)

And now there is this. The bluebirds have reclaimed their home and have finally built a nest!

Which means I have two couples to watch over, two broods over which to obsess and fret until, safe from the snakes and the heat and other (sometimes) aggressive birds, their eggs hatch and their babies flourish and fledge. I’ll bring you updates and photos, as usual. But since I expect there will be twice as many, this time I’ll share primarily via my Daily Grace Blog Facebook page. So if you don’t want to miss a thing, be sure you follow the page here, then click on the Like button and on the drop down beneath it, select “See First.” That will help ensure the post makes it into your Facebook feed.

(Don’t want to miss a thing? You can also select “Notifications” and that will give you a notice via the globe up in the right hand corner.)

Until then I’ll leave you with this joy!

 

mamagoesin
Busy building

 

mama-head
Mama just hanging out

 

Meet you there!

 

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House Hunters (2016)

You know all that work we did to make a new home for the bluebirds? The one that’s as snake-safe as we can make it, and that (now) has its own built-in sun shield, thanks to my handy husband? The bluebirds have checked on it day after day after nearly-spring day, this being their third nesting season with us on Bickley’s Pond.

 

12030455_10209090786371738_8525616686241268844_o
I’m liking this new addition.

 

Then out of the blue (so to speak), this happened.

 

chick-one
You looking at me?

 

A sweet chickadee couple got to building the cutest little tiny moss green nest in the bluebird box. Which created a real dilemma for me. I mean, what’s not to love about a chickadee!

 

chickadee
They are so good-natured!

 

So we rushed to put up another birdhouse, one with a tiny opening and a smaller nest cavity in the ridiculous hope they might abandon the bluebird house and move on over.

You simply can’t believe this. They did!

 

new-chick-home
This is more our style.

 

Now we’re just curious to see what the bluebirds do. My beloveds  seem both 1) a little late building, and 2) not too worried their house was temporarily claimed. I mean, they have visited each afternoon but through the entire ordeal have never shown any aggressive behavior toward the sweet chicks–even when there was a mossy nest being built in their living room.

 

reconsider
Well that’s curious. It seems to now be empty.

 

So we wait. And watch. And hope. Which now that I think of it seems to be the story of my life when it comes to this precious bluebird couple!

Happy spring,

XXOO

 

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