Attacked a neglected and overgrown section of the hedges in the backyard with the clippers late yesterday afternoon before supper and, pulling away some broad-leafed vines from an evergreen shrub, I uncovered this:
My heart sank.
Great, I thought, feeling I’d killed them just as surely as Charlie Brown felt he’d killed the Christmas tree, They’re doomed. I figured they were doomed in one of two ways. Either their mother would resent and be scared off by the human interference with her nest and the nestlings wouldn’t get fed anymore or tomorrow, with their shade gone, the sun would fry them.
Actually, there was a third possibility. I’d exposed them to predators. There are hawks in the neighborhood.
I was done with the trimming for the evening. I retreated inside and then set up a watch on the nest from the bedroom window, hoping to see that I was wrong about frightening away the mother.
And I was. Round about seven she swooped home. The babies’ heads shot upward, their necks craning to what I thought impossible lengths, spiky ruffs of new feathers sticking out up and down, their maws opened wide enough to swallow their mother whole.
She flew in and out three times while I was watching. Each time, she lingered a bit after feeding the babies, eyeing things, probably wondering who’d taken her roof. She didn’t look frightened. She looked miffed. But robins always look miffed. Cornell’s All About Birds website describes them as “industrious and authoritarian.” I think of them as little Puritans. Yes, they seem busy and hard-working, but they appear judgmental about it, as if they’re noticing that other birds aren’t working as hard or are having too much fun going about their business and thinking Sinners in the talons of an angry God thoughts. They’re convinced that their diligence is earning them their proper place in heaven but it gives them little and only grim satisfaction.
My field guide says robins are very protective of their nests and will gang up on crows if any wander into a neighborhood where several robin families have set up housekeeping. I don’t know what the mother would have done if she’d been around when I was hacking away at her home---or the father. That could have been a male I watched feeding the babies. Males help feed the young, although they don’t do any of the brooding. Probably just given me a stern, Puritanical judging and left me to work things out with my conscience.
At any rate, I’ll check on them tonight to see if they made it through the day safe from the sun or hawks. They look pretty well-grown, maybe they’ll fledge soon and leave the nest. I just looked out to see how things are. The mother was settled on the nest. She sensed me at the window though and flew off.
But only across the yard where she perched on a fence post, looking miffed.
Wednesday night: They didn't make it. I feel terrible.