Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Nest

The Nest

North San Juan, 1990s. When we drove through the front to come home to our North San Juan house, we had to get out of our car, work our way through a pack of unaccountably fat dogs considering they were telling us that they hadn't been fed in days and days and days, and walk around to the left side of our two car garage to reach the deck that led to the front door some thirty feet away. And each time we did that, and we did it at least once and usualloy several times a day, a Cassin's finch hen would burst out of her nest screaming, “Oh my Gawd, they're here, the Barbarian Bird Eaters are here, fly, fly for your lives!”

Well, she didn't actually say that as she shrieked and squawked to the top of her little bird's lung capacity, but that's what she meant. And she did that every time we tried to get into our house through the front door. She was a very emotional bird, and very tiresome.

For all of her emotionalism, she knew how to build a good nest. She and her mate used it each year when they returned in the spring. Each year with a few minor repairs the nest was good to go. She hatched out at least two clutches a year, sometimes more. For a three year period, this pair of finches were our primary source of red birds for our garden.

She couldn't even get a drink on her own. On several occasions we watched her cock fly to a perch over the water source, survey the scene and chirp out an all-clear before she fluttered out of a tree to drink her fill. Who knows what other duties he had besides impregnation and water watch, but she appears to have been a demanding mistress.

After three years Joanne had had enough of being dive bombed and shrieked at. The hen had already hatched out a clutch and the fledgelings were sort of on their own, flying competently if not gracefully, and with only the odd feather sticking out, and so one day she tore the nest down.

The hen was understandably upset because this time the Barbarian had actually struck. Her home/maternity ward was nothing more than a scattering of sticks and twigs.

The hen quickly organized her family into a construction brigade and she, her long suffering spouse (probably grumbling all the while), and her two most recent fledgelings set about rebuilding the family mansion. They built a structural wonder. You wondered if it would stand up under a finch fart let alone a heavy wind. Sticks stuck out at all angles and the deck underneath was littered with wisps of straw. Definitely not up to her standards. But it was also a wonder that she even got any nest up at all.

That was the last year she ever built a nest at our house. And it was the last of the red birds at our house. I didn't miss her attacks of hysteria and I didn't miss tripping the light fantastic around fresh bird poop on the deck. But I did miss the red birds themselves. They were beautiful.

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