Spring is truly here.  We have been watching a mini drama like Wild Kingdom unfold in our backyard this week, or maybe we should call it Bird Kingdom. We regularly see and hear a lot of bird activity, what with the hill behind our house crowned with palms, shrubs, and other trees.  A neighbor on top of the hill planted a grove of giant sunflowers that have already gone to seed, and it didn’t take long for the birds to discover the dried flower heads and the seed treasure littering the ground.  There are many other good perches in the way of wires, an old rooftop antenna, and other sheltered spots.  Mockingbirds and Owls call at night, Mourning Doves, and Finches by day.  But lately all of the chirping, eating and perching has stepped up.

mockingbird on a wire

I kept hearing insistent chirping while I was doing laundry inside the garage, and finally went around into the yard to investigate.  When I waited long enough, I saw a Mockingbird fly into a Bougainvillea bush right next the garage wall.  The chirping stopped, the mother bird flew out, and her hidden little ones started up again.

With the help of my yellow ladder and the handy entry/exit hole the birds made to their nest, I was able to get a peek at the babies.  Careful to keep my distance I got these photos one day:

sleepy-eyed chick

twig nest

At first I did not tell the kids about the nest, afraid they might get too interested and disturb the birds, but the second day I couldn’t resist.

more awake today

Here’s mama, in between flying her tail off for bugs…

atop the bush

And T tries to get a look at the babies…

expedition gear, future ornithologist

They grew so fast, practically before our eyes, here they are, losing their chick fuzz.

on the edge of the nest

And then before I was ready–and probably their parents for that matter– the first little fledgling dropped out of the nest!  I noticed it hopping about the backyard, and immediately worried that it was too soon.  Though I tried playing good Samaritan, and managed with the help of a cardboard box to get the baby back up to the nest, it hopped down again immediately.  Then I knew the best thing was to let its mama watch over it, and leave them alone.  But I worried, as the poor little guy seemed so defenseless standing there with his short wings.

are you my mother?

The next morning, this was the scene in the nest!  How did it get back up there?!

good morning!

Now, a crazy thing happened while these two babies were growing, just two days ago.  The boys were helping me plant some flowers in our front flower bed, so we were going in and out of doors, from the front to the back of the house.  I came around the corner to the patio and gasped when I saw this perfectly beautiful pair of birds dead on the ground.

grosbeaks?

They lay close enough to our series of vertical windows and glass door, that our best guess was that they had suffered from flying into the reflections in the windows, seeing sky or light beyond.   So sad.  The boys helped me bury them in a hole carefully lined with ivy leaves, and protected by a heart-shaped rock.

We looked in our bird book to identify the pair, and saw that they closely matched the Black-headed Grosbeak.  So here in the midst of all this life happening, a double death, just when these two should be nesting themselves.  Sigh.

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As of yesterday, the two young birds have left the nest…I last saw one of them jumping across the lawn with the mother in pursuit.  The little one disappeared behind a butterfly plant, and we haven’t seen it since.  I already miss our small friends, but keep watching the skies for the adults who still keep close.  I’ve been hoping to spot the young ones, alive and well, but nothing yet.  So goes life–very quickly it seems–full of humor and sorrow, and always surprising.

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