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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dashed Hopes

I considered not writing about this. People like cheerful reports about how nature sorts everything out. They like to think that every sparrow is looked after and that no life is lost in vain. But here in my untended plot of land, unexpected, premature and even senseless death is a normal part of life, and I think that even Bow knows about it. Remember what he said about Niles the kitten?

Last year I was able to follow developments in three different robins' nests. This year I was surprised at first that I was not seeing any, when I finally noticed one by the fence-line, snug in a low lying cypress bush.

I spotted the firs robin's nest on April 13, 201 
There were already three perfect little blue eggs in the nest. It was very far from the house, and so there was no way I could keep watch over it as I had the nest in the rosebush in front of my front door last year.  But I was looking forward to seeing the three eggs hatch.

I spotted the second robin's nest in a rosebush facing the public road. The mother robin scolded me and tried to lure me away from her nest. There were three blue eggs, streaked with a little bit of white snug in the nest.

I spotted the second robin's nest on April 18, 2017
The third nest I spotted this season wasn't even a robin's. It belonged to a mourning dove who flew away noisily every time I approached. It was April 19, the anniversary of the Mt. Carmel Massacre, and I was preoccupied, but not so much so that I did not wonder about it.

I did not know what kind of egg it was until a friend of a friend on Facebook identified it for me. I was really looking forward to seeing how a mourning doves differ from robins in their development.

By April 23, I noticed that two of the eggs in the first robin's nest had hatched.

By the 24th of April, I spotted a second egg in the mourning dove nest. The lighting was such that one of the eggs seemed pinkish, while the other looked bluish. This sparked a discussion among my friends as to whether one of the eggs did not belong in the egg. Could that bluish egg be a starlings?

By the end of that day, the first egg in the mourning dove nest had already hatched, and the other egg went from looking blue to being white again. It had probably been just a trick of the light and both eggs were "legitimate."

The mourning dove hatchling seemed healthy, and I was hopeful that eventually the other egg would hatch, revealing a matching sibling.

At the time when the mourning dove baby hatched, the baby robins in the first robin's nest looked like this.

Then the next day, April 25, the first egg in the second robin's nest by the road hatched.

That was the best it ever got. At that point, for all three nests, there were four hatchlings and four unhatched eggs. But the weather started to change, and it began to rain every day almost all day long. The nest time I went to check all three nests, the second robin's nest was empty. Completely empty.

.There was no sign of a struggle. Not a feather or a cracked egg. But I knew it was too early for anything but a bad ending to explain the total absence of hatchlings and eggs. On that day, the first robin's nest still contained two babies and the third egg had not hatched.

In the mourning dove nest, there was still one hatchling and one egg.

The next day, when I could get away to look, the mourning dove nest was completely bare, all except for one stray white feather.

In the first robin's nest, the two babies looked like this that day.

It continued to rain and rain and rain. Major parts of our state became flooded. Roads were closed and bridges crumbled and teenagers were swept away to their deaths in their cars. On April 29 I ventured out in the rain and the thunder to look at the surviving robins in the nest. They seemed to be doing well, despite it all.

Yesterday, May 1st, which was an unusually cold day, when I ventured forth to check on the robins, all I found was a bare, clean, empty  nest.

Of eight potential new lives, all were snuffed out. 


  1. Thanks for keeping us updated, Aya. I'm saddened that none of the baby birds survived. I live in Southern California and have not seen a robin since I moved here from New Jersey many years ago. I used to see mourning doves frequently, but have not see any this year.

    1. Thanks, Daisy. It is sad, but it is nature's way. I don't think we can reform it. I bet you see different birds in Southern California, which are just as beautiful. But I can understand that you would miss the robins of New Jersey.

    2. There are some robins up in the San Bernardino Mountains. I have seen nests and birds there. I also spotted a robin about a year ago down here in the city.

    3. Hi, Julia. I'm glad to know that there are robins in your part of Southern California!

  2. I think it is sad when the rain washes a next away, but what bothers me is how landscapers continually cut bird's nests out of trees just to hack away at the trees that already look so sad. There is really a thing called over landscaping.