The Republic Masthead

For the birds


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Being a bird has, I’m sure, its advantages and disadvantages. For example, while you can sing like, well, like a bird, forget accompanying yourself on piano or guitar.

And while dining on worms sounds somewhat less than appealing, who wouldn’t love to be able to fly?

With the ability to fly comes the ability to cover a lot of territory, searching out just the right location every spring for the family nest. Personally, I’d opt for something out in the country, a nice tree in the woods where I could savor my morning worm while sitting on the deck, enjoying the peace and quiet.

But judging from the goings-on at my Columbus home, some birds prefer to live in town. This spring we’ve had two bird couples build nests in bushes right up against our house.

I first noticed the robin’s nest while hooking the garden hose to the spigot next to a big bush at the back of the house. I knew something was going on when a robin flew out of the bush, landed on the fence and proceeded to call me every name in the book.

While I don’t speak robin, even a human could tell this lady was not inviting me in for a nice plate of worms. From her reaction, I can only assume she had babies in the nest.

I chose not to push my luck by investigating further. Instead, finishing my work as quickly as possible, I apologized for the intrusion and backed away, muttering something along the lines of “Hey, I lived here first.”

A few days later I noticed our cat, Stella, crouched on the back of the couch, staring intently at a tall bush just outside the living room window. When I went to see what had her undivided attention, I saw Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal inside the bush, looking at a small twig lying in the V where two branches met.

They were chirping loudly back and forth. I don’t speak cardinal either, but if I had to guess, I’d say the discussion went something like this.

“Move it to the right just a little.”

“There?”

“A little more.”

“There?”

“A little more.”

“Is that OK?”

“No, move it back where it was.”

Apparently having a cat for a neighbor doesn’t bother these two, as over the course of the day Stella and I watched as one twig became many, and the Cardinal family moved into its new home just before dark.

As I write this, we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of their offspring.

Sadly, it hasn’t all been joy in bird land at our house. We actually had a third nest for a while. A couple of small, gray birds decided to set up housekeeping in a flower basket hanging next to the front door.

As we’d come in and out of the house, the mother bird would fly away. We could see a tiny baby in the nest, usually with its mouth wide open. Sadly, one evening when we came home we found flies swarming around the nest. The baby had died.

I wondered if its mother had abandoned it, fed up with our frequent comings and goings so close to her nest. If so, I’m sorry, but hey, why didn’t she opt for that isolated tree in the woods?

I’m hoping the young robins and cardinals fare better, although I’ve had to chase away an annoying neighborhood cat a few times when I’ve found it camped out under the Cardinal residence.

With a yard teeming with rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks, we’ve always had quite the little urban wildlife refuge going on. This spring, we’ve expanded, adding a new avian maternity wing for birds that for some reason prefer a bush in the city to a tree in the woods.

Who knows, maybe dad works in town and doesn’t want to commute.

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