March 3, 2011

Robin
The arrival of robins to the garden signals that spring is near.

We saw the first robins of the season today, hopping around on the front lawn. There were two plump ones with beautiful orange bellies pulling worms out of the soil. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were a mating pair looking to build a home somewhere at our place. How fun it would be to watch a family of fledglings grow up right outside our living room window!

I pulled the car right up to the robin that was hanging out in the garden above our driveway’s retaining wall. I was very surprised that it didn’t fly away. It just looked at us, and we looked at it from a mere 3 feet away. It was exciting for my son, and I enjoyed explaining to him that when the robins arrive it usually means that spring isn’t too far behind. He assured me that March 21 wasn’t far away and that on that day, there would be sunshine and it would be 70 degrees. Gotta love the optimism of a 5-year-old. 

This Christmas, Santa Claus brought my son a nest box that has a clear pane of plastic on the back and attaches to a window with suction cups. The idea is to put it on the window with the extra piece of wood it comes with to block off the clear area. Then once the eggs are laid, you remove the piece of wood and can watch the babies grow right before your eyes. I guess I need to put it out sooner rather then later—the birds are really singing lately, especially in the mornings. I’m guessing they’re beginning to feel amorous and are getting ready to build their nests. 

I used to have a gardening client who would put nesting materials out for the birds each spring. She would save dog hair, pieces of yarn, string, lint, ribbons and the like and pack them into wire suet cake holders and hang them in the trees. The birds would empty them within a day or two, and she would religiously refill them as they emptied.

I always wondered where she kept all the nest-making ingredients she collected throughout the winter. I pictured a plastic bag hanging in her laundry room overflowing with “the goods,” and I wondered what her excessively neat, engineer-type husband thought of the bag. Unfortunately, this wonderful woman is now suffering from dementia. I think of her often, though I haven’t seen her in six years, and wonder if her husband has taken over the nest collection bag or if the birds have been left to fend for themselves.  I hope it’s the former, for both the birds’ sake and hers.      

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