Rites of spring

robin-on-roofThe birds here know it’s Spring. Yesterday, I awoke to the song of a single robin, loud enough to disturb my attempts to return to sleep, and I came downstairs to find him perched on the peak of the (otherwise) disused playhouse in our backyard, warbling away. Nothing was going to stop him from his appointed task, which I presume was finding a mate. Even my two dogs barreling out of the house, down the stairs and into the yard toward him neither disturbed his song nor sent him to flight. He warbled on for at least an hour, claiming his place in the world.

Today it was a cardinal, in a slightly different position from yesterday’s robin, but chirp-chirp-chirping to declare himself well before the light of dawn. Once I awaken on these Spring mornings, there’s no going back to sleep.

Robins-nest-babiesRobins are fairly sociable birds and often nest close—perhaps too close—to people. We had a pair nest in the eaves just above our back door one year, making us fear we would disturb them any time we opened the door. We needn’t have worried. They never flinched, and we got to watch the feeding of babies up close that year from seats on our deck.

Cardinals prefer to nest in shrubs or bushes, but they have a pretty high tolerance for human company as well, and one year brought us an active nest in the sprawling Seven Sisters rose shrub that covers the fence four feet from our deck. That year I got to watch the feeding of babies from my hammock. As if I needed an excuse to lie in the hammock.

7-sisters-rose-wideA couple of years have brought us a male robin so obsessed with his reflection in one of our windows that he would peck away for hours at the window. This isn’t unusual behavior, as it turns out; they see their reflections and think there’s another bird in their territory, so they attack. The other bird doesn’t go away, so they don’t go either. It seems that both cardinals and robins commonly do this (and other birds less so), but here we get that only with the robins. So far.

We love our songbirds and happily provide seed, water sources and housing for them. We don’t chase away cats, but the dogs are something of a deterrent to them. There’s another natural threat to the birdies, and it’s one we welcome even while we hope for the songbirds’ safety: hawkWe have a hawk who likes to hang out with us sometimes – usually at a distance but occasionally, as shown here, right up close by the window.

I’m glad never to have seen the hawk get a meal, but we’ve occasionally seen evidence that it has. It makes us sad, but it’s Nature’s way. Still, it would be nice if it limited itself to a diet of mice. We have plenty of those to go around.


P.S. I’m reminded that I once wrote a haiku about that chirping pre-dawn cardinal. Nature does have its patterns.

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