Early June 2016
For days, the little bird perched itself on a garden post, only a few feet away, and made clicking sounds as it watched me. I figured this must be the anxious behavior of a parent bird with wee ones in a nest nearby. Not knowing about bird gender, I decided to assign a female identity and call this bird “mommy.” I felt for her and said, “Please don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you or your babies, I promise.” I looked about for the nest. Where could it be?
Ground Nest Babies
My 4-year old granddaughter, Adelina, found it. “Gramma, look here, under the trampoline!” I learned to my surprise that some birds actually build their nests on the ground! “Now this has got to be the epitome of vulnerable,” I thought. In an area of long weeds, in an indentation in the ground, the nest lay. It was hardly visible, even to the searching eye, and I only managed to see it when a baby bird lifted its head. A total of three young ones shared the nest.
Adelina and I watched in awe as the mommy, only a few feet from where we stood, shoved what looked like regurgitated morsels into waiting mouths. I didn’t make a video myself, but here’s one by someone else, which may give you a sense of what my granddaughter and I saw. (The word “dairy” must be a misspelling of diary.)
Dark-Eyed Junco Bird Nest
Btw, for some remarkable photos of some of the crazy places these critters build their nests, you might like to visit: Tough Little Birds.
Beauty in Vulnerability
I was moved by the fragility of these little lives, the mommy bird’s included. Here was new life, beautiful in all its vulnerable preciousness. Then I considered: Isn’t it similar for all living creatures when we enter the world, whether we be flowers, people, grasshoppers, trees, birds or–? And if we are honest, don’t we continue through our lives essentially vulnerable, no matter how many defenses we may build?
While I looked at this intimate family scene, the term that came to mind was the “sacredness of life.” That my granddaughter and I were privy to it, just outside our back door, felt like a blessing.
“That’s What Birds Do”
Adelina and I had some conversations about the little birds. Here is one:
“Gramma, are these babies going to fly?”
“Yes, but they don’t how yet. When they get a bit bigger, they’ll practice lots and then learn.” I spoke this confidently, even though I didn’t feel that confident about their safety. “It’s like when you were a little baby,” I explained. “You didn’t know how to walk but then you learned.”
“But I don’t want these babies to fly. I want to keep them.”
“Sweetheart, they will fly around here and then probably fly away. That’s what birds do. We’ll need to say ‘goodbye little birds.’ They may come back to visit us.” Adelina seemed satisfied with my explanation. I love how she, and most other little kids too, are fascinated by the Natural World. That strikes me as precious too.
The mommy bird continued to perch herself on the mesh fence and Adelina, in turn, perched herself on the old trampoline. It was an ideal place to look across at the mommy bird and then down at her babies.
I continued to check on the nest a few times each day. Each time I found all in order, I was relieved. Was there an invisible curtain protecting these little ones? After a while, Adelina got busy with the business of playing and didn’t pay so much attention. It was just as well because this past Sunday morning, her mom (my daughter) informed me, “The mommy bird’s gone, and her babies aren’t moving.”
“We Can Still Say Goodbye”
I didn’t want it to be true, but it was. The ever present mommy bird was gone and her babies…? They lay lifeless in their nest. No sign of attack. Parent birds sleep on their young in ground nests, yes? Perhaps something had happened to the mommy and her babies succumbed to exposure during the night? It’s June, not cold at night in Victoria, but certainly cool.
After that Sunday morning discovery, my day took on a softer hue. I continued to my New Thought church, feeling meditative and sad. When I walked in late, the video “Everything is Holy Now,” was being played. Somehow it was perfect.
The song, which honours the Natural World (little birds very much included) is sung by its composer, Peter Mayer. There’s a spiritual message in his lyrics that can speak to anyone, whether “religiously” inclined or not. I hope you can see/hear what I mean.
Wine from water is not so small
but an even better magic trick
is that anything is here at all,
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for Miracles
but finding where there isn’t one…
Hmm, I notice I’ve included three mothers and some of their (our) young in this story about a bird’s family. Maybe it’s because I am thinking about life and those who nurture and protect its continuance, mothers and fathers especially.
I’m also thinking about our Natural World and how full of wonders it is. (Thank you, little birds, for reminding me.) How about you? What does this blog post have you think about? Does appreciating the Natural World add depth and beauty to your life? Have little birds touched your heart like they have touched mine?
Thanks for visiting, and I’d love for you to share your thoughts and/or feelings in the comments section below.