Judy Mintz: Uninvited, but very welcome, guests
From: Everywhere I Go
May 15, 2012 at 11:26AM
One day it wasn’t there, the next it was; a bird’s nest resting on the wisteria vine that grows along the top of our farmer’s porch. At first I thought it was yard waste, blown there by the wind. But the next day it had grown larger. I had no idea that birds worked that fast so I wasn’t completely convinced it was a nest until a few days later when I opened the front door and a robin shot out of the mess of twigs in question and flew to a nearby tree.
Andrew and I were beyond excited. We were honored. This robin had chosen our house on which to make a home for her babies. This was personal. We immediately became protective, repeatedly cautioning each other to open the front door carefully so as not to spook her. We’d sit in the living room and crane our necks to look up at the nest. “I can see her! Come look,” we’d take turns telling each other. It didn’t take much urging. We were fascinated.
It took us all a few days to get used to each other. Each time we used the electric garage door opener she’d flee. Walking onto the porch sent her scrambling. But she calmed down after a week or so and now she’ll stay put when we drive home and put up the garage door. Sometimes, if we sneak out the front door quietly enough, she’ll ignore us.
One day, we saw a light blue egg balanced on the wisteria vine below the nest. We panicked. How would we get it back into the nest where it belonged? We figured touching it was out of the question. What if Mom ignored it once it had a human scent on it? Do birds even have a sense of smell?
The bigger problem was logistical. The nest was right above the stairs so getting close enough to reach into it would be tricky. If we were going to attempt a rescue, Andrew needed to see if he could climb up the porch railing. We determined that Mom wasn’t in residence and he hopped onto the railing while I held my breath. I wasn’t thrilled about risking his neck for the baby bird’s, but his inner mountain goat prevailed and he pulled himself up without incident.
“It’s not an egg,” he called down. “It’s just part of a shell. And there are babies in there!” He returned to earth and said, “I could just barely make out two little balls of fuzz.”
I was jealous, but since I have no mountain goat in me I was going to have to wait for the babies to show themselves. It didn’t take long. Mom had started to return from expeditions with worms dangling from her beak. Fortunately, my eyesight isn’t good enough to see all the details of the transaction, but one day I saw Mom on the side of the nest, bending down, and two little beaks pointed up in the air. It was true, I was a grandmother.
The nest and the birds have been wonderful compensation for the fact that this spring’s weather robbed us of our traditional wisteria blossoms. Below is what our vine looks like on a good year. This year, it seems that many of the buds froze and died. Andrew diagnosed that right around the time that the nest appeared. Even if we had all those blooms we might not notice them, transfixed as we are by our little family.
I have no idea how long it takes for baby robins to grow up and move out, nor do I know where Mom goes when she’s officially an empty nester, so I don’t know how long they’ll be in residence. I’m prepared to miss them all terribly when they’re gone, but maybe Mom will spread the word about what a great location it is and next year a new family will settle here. Maybe when they’re gone we’ll leave the nest right where it is and add a little sign that says, “Free Room to Let.”