Friday, July 02, 2010

Baby birds

In the past few weeks I've noticed robins making dive-bomb runs across our patio. They swoop by, low and fast and angry, and fly to the tree outside the gate. Sometimes it's a female alone. Sometimes it's one bird on the tail of another.

I've seen this behavior before. In past summers, I've seen robins dive at our dogs and then dash outside the fence. It's a diversionary tactic, the mama robin's way of quickly distracting attention away from her nest at the top of the tall pole that supports a Concord grape vine on the edge of our patio. It's left over from a huge but ugly arbor that I ripped down several years ago. The vine still produces grapes, and lots and lots of leaves. Robins have been nesting there for many years.

So as I sat on the patio the other morning growing bored with my book, I looked hard into the green umbrella of the grape vine, and found the dense twiggery of the nest. 

I even saw two tiny beaks, open to the sky. I heard the babies' tiny chirp, answered with a tiny, soothing chirp from the mother who was in the tree outside the gate. She understands that flying to her babies' aid puts them in danger. They are better hidden without her presence. But today, when I looked very closely, I saw the spotted breast of one of these babies. It's towards the center of the circle, at about ten o'clock.

I've seen robins' nests in our backyard before, seen robin's-egg-blue shells on the ground. Many years ago I saw a fledgling on the ground, trying to figure out how to fly. But I've never seen such a healthy baby in the next waiting for its next meal.

This is the first summer in the twenty-four years I've lived in this house that there is no dog in the back yard. I used to think that any mother robin who built a nest in our back yard had a few screws loose, or didn't have the brains it would take for her genes to survive in her offspring. Backyard dogs will bark and bark and eat anything that ends up on the ground in front of them.

I have high hopes for these babies. I'll watch the nest closely in the the next couple weeks. I'll listen for that mother chirping at a distance. It reminds me, oddly, of myself, sending my teenager gentle, carefully worded text messages about staying safe and coming home at a reasonable hour. Mama robin is busy gathering worms and whatever else these growing infants eat. I forage at Jewel and bring home sweet cider from the Farmers' Market.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father." Matthew 10:29

Sparrows, robins, teenagers--all are cared for by a mothering God.

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