Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nature Ain't Disney

Our suburban yard - just a third of an acre including the house - is a certified wildlife habitat. To get that designation you need places for plants to grow, for animals to feed and hide and raise their young, for a source of water (a fountain on the front porch) and food (bird feeders and a garden). We love the summer when we can watch the inhabitants of our place.

On Monday I went out to the nest we'd been watching. It had been about 12 days since we'd first seen the mama bird on her nest, so we knew it was about time for the eggs to hatch. Here's what we saw.

So exciting! The babies were all open mouths. There were at least two of them. As we watched, the mama returned to the nest to tend her young. For the next several days, when we'd stand under the grape arbor, we'd see either the babies gaping skyward, or the mother and father bird feeding or standing watch over the babies.

Our two families have five cats, so we figured by the following Monday we'd need to keep the animals in for several days while the young fledglings hopped around on the ground under their parents' watchful eyes. No cat of ours would cut the lives of these babies short.

Early Friday morning my sister Alyx visited the birds. For the first time she could hear peeping coming from the nest. But in the afternoon, when I went out, the nest was silent, and no adult bird was in sight. I visited several more times that day, but all was still in the nest above me.

On Saturday morning it was still quiet. My husband Art set up a ladder by the grapes, and Alyx climbed it. "The nest is empty," she told me. "I saw two big orange and brown birds flying around yesterday - they almost looked like parrots. I'd never seen them before and I haven't seen them since. They looked pretty interested in the grape arbor." Then she added, "I should have stayed out there to keep them from the nest."

I went on the internet to learn more. One writer said that birds who build open-cupped nests have only a 7-to-40 percent success rate with their babies, and some breeds  produce three clutches each year to compensate for this.

It was that writer who also commented, "Nature Ain't Disney".

Alyx and I grieved for the babies and the parents as though we had known them personally. I know this is part of the cycle of life, but still.  I remember reading somewhere that, in the "olden days", women were discouraged from developing an attachment to their infants until the child successfully reached its first birthday, as the infant mortality rate was quite high. One of those sad things.

I don't have the same sentiment about pulling beets or carrots out of the ground. Fortunately.

On the human front, my church community had an organizational meeting on Monday for a project to create a community of "tiny houses" for the homeless. Other groups in the country have had success with this concept - the closest one in Olympia, Washington - and we're interested in partnering with other groups to develop a similar plan. When I think about the homeless, I know there's not much difference between them and me. A few years of education, maybe, or a couple of different choices, and some luck. I do believe we're all in this together. Hopefully, this project is something I can do even if I'm in Tucson for the winter. In the initial assignments, I'm responsible for researching the relevant laws in the community and county, and will be doing some marketing presentations. I'm not a marketer, but I have a good amount of experience as a presenter.

Tonight we ate the first green beans from our garden. Tomorrow I pull out the rest of the dying pea plants. The cycle of life, I guess.


Grandmother (Mary) said...

I just watched a video on Nomad Micro Homes which is very cool. Is it a particular kind of small home you'll be using? This is such a great idea!

Olga Hebert said...

The woodchuck enjoyed my bean plants before they even blossomed, but tomatoes are starting to ripen.
Several years ago the city of Burlington bought one way bus tickets to AZ for the homeless population. I suppose if you have ever spent a homeless winter in VT that is not quite as lacking in compassion as it may sound. I will have to learn more about the small houses idea.

DJan said...

So sorry to hear of the loss of the babies. And yeah, Disney didn't follow reality or it would have been too awful. That's a really great idea for a way to be helping the homeless.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Nature is definitely not Disney! We have experienced the same sadness, and once as we watched a hawk swooped into our back yard and grabbed up a female cardinal. I guess these things give us important life lessons, but still....

Rian said...

It is sad about the empty nest... but yes, it happens. We have the same problem with feral kittens. One day a mom has 4 little ones following her and then the next, it's only 3 or 2. Sometimes she sequesters one 1 or 2 somewhere and shows up with all of them the next time... but occasionally, you never see the others again. Nature or not, it is sad.

Arkansas Patti said...

I kind of miss the Disney versions of nature. The real stuff is a bit depressing and hard to take. I felt the same way when I found part of a snake hanging out the hole of the birdhouse. Those babies were lunch.

Linda Reeder said...

The loss of the baby birds is sad. That you are helping the homeless is a very good thing. I wish you and your group success.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Yes, nature can be cruel and life so short. We've lost our share of baby birds in our citrus trees, alas. Not due to cats because it's too hazardous for cats to be outside here in coyote country. But hawks and other predators do empty nests. I find that I can't deal with nature films these days. I always feel so bad for the gazelle, the runt of the litter lion cub or baby seal.

Friko said...

Oh how sad.
Last year I lost a nest of baby thrushes to magpies but this year the thrush pair reared another nestful - in exactly the same place - successfully.

I couldn’t have borne another ‘murder on the housewall’.

Providing homes for the homeless is a very worthwhile endeavour. I wish you every success.

Barbara Torris said...

We too mourned the loss of a nest of birds. In fact, in our Arizona home the birds are attached to us and even expect some protection from us. The dove that had her nest robbed during a spring night sat on our front porch for the whole day looking in our window beseeching us to find her lost babies. It broke our hearts.

I love the tiny house idea. Please post pictures.