I realized as I sat down to start writing that it has been a few months since I have written much at all. Radio show, work, business and buying a house all kept me away, which leads me to the subject matter at hand. Within two weeks of buying my new home and moving in, I was standing at the front window when I noticed a small bird building a nest on top of my wind-chime that was hung under the eave near the entrance to the porch. The bird had very soft colors of brown and gray with a mist of red upon the top of its head. I watched in wonder as this bird carefully tucked pieces of evergreen and dried grasses into the nest. Over the next few days, I witnessed this nest taking shape and my wind-chime transforming from an instrument for the wind to play into a musical home for its new resident.
I began telling friends of the magic that was occurring at my new home and listened in dismay as they made fervent remarks of impending doom with insistent suggestions that I remove the piece of intricate art that this bird had created. Each morning I would go to the window upon awakening and check the nest to find it vacant, as if it was waiting for something or someone to take residence, and each day ‘others’ would insist I remove the nest. It was a conversation with a woman I have known quite a few years that had me doubting my own beliefs.
My belief was the nest should stay where it was, that it was a beautiful piece of work to appreciate and leave alone. It was a home for a soon to be new family. How would I feel if my home disappeared upon returning one day? However, visions of the bird attacking my mail carrier or anyone entering the porch in order to protect her young started to enter my field of vision at the suggestion of my friend. She filled my mind with visions of ‘waste’ on the steps and porch rail. At first, I brushed these visions away, however, as the day wore on, they returned.
I found myself carefully lifting the wind-chime from its hook and bringing it inside the porch. After all, my friend had told me that the bird would still have time to build another nest before her eggs came, and I had not seen anyone ‘sitting’ in the nest as yet. As I admired this beautiful nest, thinking how intricate and carefully it had been constructed, the wind-chime fell from the nail I had hung it on. I was devastated as the nest hit the floor breaking apart somewhat. I began putting it back together as carefully as I could, just as I had witnessed it being done by this creature of God. I left it exactly as it was, still on top of the wind-chime resting on the floor where it landed.
As I was driving away from my house, I became filled with anguish. This was the mother bird’s anguish I was feeling. I could hear her cries and feel her pain at the nest being gone. I turned around and drove home and continued putting the nest back together, then carefully replaced the wind-chime on the hook. I had heard stories as a child that the bird would not return, since the nest had been disturbed. I took my prayer flags and cut small strips from each of them, fetched some bread crumbs and left them as an offering. I then said a prayer of forgiveness for my folly.
For two days, I watched with no sign of the bird returning. I left to go out of town for two and half days and thought about the nest and mother bird the entire time I was away. Upon returning from my trip, I ran to the window, only to see an empty nest. Monday morning I walked slowly to the front window with no expectation and saw again the empty nest that did not hold the same beauty it had held prior to my invasion of this sacred home. Later in the day, as I was thinking about the bird and nest, I caught myself driving up my road and pulling in the driveway. I looked up to the wind-chime and to my surprise there sat a bird in the nest, but it was not the bird that I had watch build the nest. Now I am not a birdwatcher and know little of their habits, but I knew this was not the same bird, the mist of red was missing from it head.
When I returned home after work, I went straight to the window and there sat my mother bird. I stood in awe of this magic, reflecting on many things I had been told throughout my life, wondering when I became so susceptible to others’ fears. I wondered if this mother bird was disappointed in the nest that I now knew the father bird had built. I could almost hear her and knew that it did not matter; this nest was built with love and care. I could almost hear her whisper to herself “not the best nest, but it will do.” It became a ritual to walk to the window upon awaking in the morning, and stopping at home during the day to check on the mother in her nest.
Then one afternoon as I approached the window, I was surprised to see that the bird had changed, at least, at that moment it appeared to have changed. The softness was gone and the bird looked like it had been through a really stressful day. The colors were similar, but different. The soft grey was not there, it was a patchy brown and white. Very confused, I watched for as long as I could while this bird sat with a look of determination. I was unable to return to the nest until the next morning and lo and behold, there sat my mother bird, not looking anything like the bird I had seen the day before. I was quite confused as I was certain I was seeing things. Now I had seen three different birds at this nest.
It had been a few days when I noticed the nest was empty, so I grabbed my camera and tripod and was able to hold the camera high enough, and with my handy remote, snapped a picture of the inside of the nest. In the picture, I saw four blue eggs with brown specks and one cream egg with brown specks that reminded me of the strange bird I saw a few days prior.
Suddenly, I felt like I was on Millionaire and “phoned a friend.” I learned something I had never known before. There is something called a brood parasite. A brood parasite is a bird that lays its eggs in another birds nest. They generally only lay one egg in each nest to ensure the survival of at least one. They are generally larger and more aggressive, so when the other eggs hatch, the baby birds have less of a chance for survival. This troubled me greatly as I had begun to see the father bird returning to the nest to feed Jesse, the mother bird as she sat on their eggs. All kinds of thoughts occurred to me. First they nearly lost their home and now they are in jeopardy of losing their family. After all this was the information I had been told by my friend and confirmed in my internet research.
After a couple days, I made up my mind to remove the brooding parasite egg from the nest, but I just did not have the heart to ‘dispose’ of it as someone had suggested. It is not within me to cause harm. I carefully brought the egg inside and put it into a makeshift incubator.
I have rescued and raised many animals over the years. A kitten born with a dislocated shoulder that the mother would not care for became a very dear companion. Jo-Jo travelled with me everywhere those first few weeks. Daisy, a crippled runt pig, whose mother cast her aside wore Popsicle sticks on her front legs until they straightened out and slept with one of my cats until she was too big for the house. A baby bird should be easy, I told myself, provided my makeshift incubator actually worked. Well, the next morning while I was in the shower my son came running in the bathroom screaming “it’s hatching;” and hatching it was. I raised the towel to see George emerging from his shell. Frantically, we logged onto the internet to see what we could feed this bird that was no bigger than the first knuckle of my little finger. Believe it or not, cat food was what we found was the most complete nutrition for this small bird. Since I did not currently have a cat, we hurried to the store and came home and started preparing George’s first meal.
George was very active, eating and chirping and moving around looking like a miniature prehistoric beast. I had read that George needed to be fed approximately every 15 minutes and he seemed to eat every 20, so all seemed well. Later that day the activity in the nest assured me that Jesse’s little fledglings were also hatching. Luckily for me, baby birds do not have to be fed through the night and the next day I packed George and his food and off to work we went. Now, baby birds not only have to be fed frequently, they need to stay at a relatively constant temperature, and travelling around with me was hard on George and eventually was too much for him. I am sad to report that George is tucked away in an Alltoids box in my flower garden now. He passed away while I was driving and I was unaware that he was in need of attention.
As the days went on, watching this family of birds, I was amazed at the attention both mother and father paid to the baby birds; taking turns feeding as each was out getting more food. I continued to take photos of the babies as they grew each time Jesse was away. Only three of the four eggs hatched which had me wondering if George should have stayed safely in the nest. However, my subsequent research indicated that the diet of the House Finch is different than that of the cowbird and it may not have survived after all.
One day I noticed one of the babies popping its head above the nest and ran to get my camera. As I opened the door and raised the camera to get close, it went into a panic and leapt from the nest flying away yelling “danger, danger.” I ducked back inside watching for him to return and very quickly both mother and father bird were on the scene perched atop of my shepherd hooks that hold my hanging baskets calling to him. I named this young bird Will Robinson, because after an hour he had not returned and I knew he was “Lost in Space.” For hours that afternoon both Mother and Father would fly up above the porch and come back down below calling to their young son but he did not return. Jesse returned to the nest that evening and continued to sit with her other two babies. The next day the nest was empty, the other two babies full of feathers had left on their journey to adulthood, or possibly they are all “Lost in Space” together.
I learned many things through this experience, I learned that we should always listen to our own intuition and the opinion of others is just that, an opinion. The father bird built this nest; he did not have the mother bird standing over his shoulder telling him how to build it. The mother bird accepted this nest as it was, regardless of my tampering with it. I never once witnessed arguments between the parent birds on ‘whose turn it was’ to feed these birds. The love that I felt as I watched the interaction between these two birds was immense. I learned about the habits and nature of the House Finch. The mother bird removed the waste from the nest until the baby birds are older and then they waste along the top edge of the nest. Never a dropping on my porch as had been predicted by my friends and acquaintances. Each bird had a role and they fulfilled it graciously working together. The mother bird had even accepted the cowbird egg and subsequently accepted when it disappeared. I have always felt that acceptance was the key to happiness and watching the behavior of these birds reinforced that opinion.
When you lack acceptance, you are actually creating a resistance in your life. Creating a block in the energy flow that brings things into your life. Had Jesse not accepted the other egg, she might not have returned to the nest and seen her own eggs hatch. Life itself is a cycle, ever changing with new experiences and opportunities for growth. Any resistance to these cycles slows the growth and lessens the opportunities. There were so many lessons in this experience that I reflect on daily. Probably the most important lesson is that when you resist, you can find yourself Lost in Space.