“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
and never stops at all.”
– Emily Dickenson
This Earth Day and Easter my gardening helper (aka my hubby, Bob) found a most wondrous gift. Can you see her in the picture above? Actually it all started about 2 weeks ago. As I was writing, I noticed through the window a robin hanging around the dwarf willow tree in the front garden right off the front porch and next to the front walk. It hopped onto the willow and then very quickly ducked under some branches and voila there it was, a nest. We had not noticed it before. The garden helper wanted to remove the nest if there were no eggs, but I was firm. It was staying even if it meant we couldn’t use the front door or porch for a while. After all, when would we get a front row seat like this again. So we watched the robin as it hung round the nest, but it did not stay long nor were there any eggs. At one point the bird was doing an interesting dance almost. It would push its body down into the nest and it moved in a clockwise direction. It was forming the nest to its body…now this was getting interesting. Then the hubby scared it a few times using the front door. A week or so passed and no robin. I was becoming very disappointed. After all I was so hopeful, the robin would nest here in my garden. We concluded we must of scared it off.
Then I spotted it again, but it looked like the male was always visiting the nest. That didn’t make sense. I was confused since I had thought the male and female were vastly different in appearance. How wrong I was. What self-respecting Audubon Society member didn’t know the difference between the male and female robin. Well I was in the Audubon Society about 40 years ago so cut me some slack. Time to get out the bird books and get on the internet for a few facts. I found males and females were almost identical, but the female is a little bit duller in her tail feathers and her breast. So this was the female. But would she stay?
Earth Day was the first nice day of the spring after our one warm day a couple of weeks ago. I had it off so what a great time to clean up the garden. I was clipping back the Endless Summer hydrangeas on the other side of the walk trying to keep far away from the robin, but then I saw her take off and she didn’t come back. I wondered….should I peek? So I took the camera and leaned in for a shot of the nest from above. And there they were, three beautiful blue eggs. After we celebrated, we waited patiently for her return, but she did not come back. I checked all day, and she still stayed away. Of course, I thought I had been too close, scared her away, and she abandoned her eggs. But maybe she would return tonight. After all it was going into the 20s and she had to sit on those poor eggs. But she did not return. I was crushed and felt awful. Now these poor babies would not have a chance. Then my husband called me. She was back.
In her absence I had been reading about nesting robins. They laid 3 to 4 eggs; one egg a day. And here is the fascinating fact. They actually leave the eggs exposed to the elements as they lay each egg so the eggs will stay cool until she is done laying; then all the eggs will hatch about the same time. So she wasn’t abandoning the eggs she was doing what all robins do. She was on the nest a long time when she came back; then she was up and gone again. Could it be? Did she lay one more? So I hurried out and snapped another quick picture, and yes there it was a fourth egg; a full clutch. She is now on the nest full time only taking short breaks. She rotates around the nest a few inches every so often and she even rotates the eggs.
We keep a safe distance, and wait in a silent vigil with her in hopes that the eggs will be viable and we will have babies soon. I couldn’t help thinking that this wonderful gift came on such important days; Earth Day and Easter. Since we have stopped the use of any harmful chemicals, we have seen more wildlife in the gardens. I take this as a sign that we are doing the right thing as stewards of this land; this land we are merely inhabiting for a short time. And what better Easter gift than the gift of new life; brightly colored eggs in a nest symbolizing Spring as well.
Our spring has been a bit bleak and delayed this year. Very wet with 7 inches of rain in April with cold temps. Bulbs are growing, but no trees have leafed out and no natives or perennials have bloomed. Birds have yet to start nesting in the houses out back, and a few sluggish frogs have found the pond which is not showing off its wonderful water lily. But this wondrous bird is trusting that this is a safe place for her and her babies. I intend to honor that trust.
“Poor indeed is the garden in which birds find no homes.”
– Abram L. Urban
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