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Monday, May 16, 2016

Leaving the Nest is Hard

A lot has happened here since the last time I reported in. We have had a hail storm and casualties and empty nests and more Pickle Ice. Happy things and sad things intermingled, as it happens in real life. Because real life is not a Disney movie, and not every sparrow is watched over by an Unseen Hand.

Here is a glimpse at the four baby robins the last time I saw all four in the nest.

There was a hail storm on Wednesday night or more accurately in the wee hours early on Thursday, and Bow woke up the household with his howling and displaying against the gods of the storm. In the morning, when I checked on the the nest, it was lopsided, the rosebush had been bent over by the winds, and there was one baby bird on the ground that I saw right away.

Then later I saw that there was also another baby robin on its own, standing on the ground.

It was too early for them to fledge,  because they normally would do that at thirteen days, and they were only nine days old at the time. However, when baby robins do fledge, they don't exactly fly away. They jump out of the nest, flapping their wings inefficiently and still have to be fed and watched over by their parents. I learned this by looking it up, as I did not know anything about it at the time.

Two baby robins on the ground after the storm
Of the two baby birds in the picture above, the one in the background died of injuries from the fall. The one in the foreground survived the fall intact and I later saw it on the lawn being fed by its mother. This does not necessarily mean it will survive to adulthood, but at least it has a chance. But there are predators about, and a bird that cannot fly is especially vulnerable to snakes.

On Thurday afternoon, Bow's friends came by with the bananas as usual, and she also brought him issues of the Missouri Conservationist and some more Pickle Ice as a present.

As Bow's friend was leaving, she saw a young rat snake on the prowl and alerted me to its presence. I came out with my walking stick and a tupperware container, to see if I could relocate the snake to a place where it would not go after the baby robins. But the snake ran away from me and disappeared by the tulip tree, which means it could have gone back later for the birds. However, I can safely report that much later that day I saw the healthy baby bird being fed by its mother on the lawn, and the one who died I disposed of uneaten by snakes.

The remaining two baby robins in the lopsided nest

 And this left two baby robins still in the nest by my door, somehow hanging on in  a very lopsided rosebush.

Two days after the storm, they were still in there, being fed by their parents and thriving and growing. And then yesterday morning, when I went out to check on them, I saw one of the nestlings perched on the edge of the nest, and then it ventured forth beyond into the branches of the rosebush.

It was still crying to be fed, but hardly the helpless little baby it used to be.

I had other things to do that day, such as writing articles about Austin Petersen, so I did not actually see the remaining robins taking off. But that afternoon, the nest was empty.

There was no sign of the baby robins anywhere around there, but the mother seemed to have a message for me.

She seemed to be saying "My little ones are grown." Or anyway, that's what I thought at the time. And not expecting to see the newly flown robins, I went on a long walk. On my walk, I saw a butterly in the grass by the fence.

I think it was a Little Wood Satyr Butterfly.

Little Wood Satyr Butterfly
As I continued along my walk, in the grass by the barn, I saw something quite familiar. It was one of the baby robins, just hopping along by itself.

I followed it and saw it take cover in the tall grass of the pasture.

When they leave the nest they cannot fly, but apparently these baby robins can walk quite a distance. Hopefully the parents are still watching over them and feeding them until their wings are strong enough to fly. Leaving the nest is a much more gradual process than we have been led to believe!

So this is what has happened this past week. Time flies so fast, Soon I must leave for the Libertarian National Convention. And Lawrence will be spending time with Bow.


  1. Great post, Aya! I have seen baby robins chasing their parents across the lawn, begging for food here too. It is so funny! And the parents are SO fast when they pick up food and make the exchange with the baby. I am always and forever, amazed with the wild of our backyards.

    1. Hi, Kathy. It is pretty amazing! Even though the same things must happen here each year more or less in timeless repetition, every year I learn something new about the natural world all around me.