Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Premature Evacuation

I did a bad thing today. I drove the young robins from their comfy nest outside our kitchen window. I didn't mean to. It was the squirrel's fault.

When we returned a couple of weeks ago we discovered the nest constructed close to our back door. Our long absence must have convinced the robins they'd found a perfect safe spot. Though I wasn't happy to have a family of birds nastying up my patio, I tried to be considerate if for no one else sake but the mama robin who obviously had a lot invested in her little nest on my window. Once, my curiosity got the best of me; I admit to reaching into the nest to feel around for what might be in there. But after that, I left them alone, marveling over how fast the chicks were growing. But they are gone today. I'll tell you why, but let me give you a little background first.

The other day we were sitting on our deck and Robert's cell phone rang. I heard him say, "Not much. Just watching my grass grow," which was totally true. Since he seeded the lawn we keep constant check on its progress. The rain we've had has certainly been helpful even if to everyone else it's a bother. Kansas City is saturated, the rivers and creeks swollen and more rain is in the forecast, but we wake up to cheer the green blades sprouting up through the hay Robert spread. For me it's a sense of relief to finally see a lawn appear. What I'm really anxious about is my neighbors' opinion of us. Neighbors like to see neighbors keeping the place up. When we were gone for the winter, neglecting the house, I didn't give it much thought, (I figured the snow would cover-up things nicely) but on returning to see the mess I instantly began feeling sorry. I think to the many times I've cursed the man across the street that every autumn lets the wind rake the leaves of his half dozen monster-sized trees into our yard. (Well, there's other stuff too, like the paint on his windows he's never bothered to scrape off since 1998.) But, our other neighbors are sensible people who hire lawn services and tree trimmers, and get their homes re-roofed and driveways resurfaced. I'd like to stay on friendly terms with those folks.

This morning when I took my coffee to the window to survey our budding lawn I saw a squirrel furiously digging away under the sweet gum tree, his little claws ripping at our precious, tender shoots of bluegrass/fescue blend. I sat my mug down and dashed out to the patio and hollered, "HEY, CUT THAT OUT!" I guess I scared him senseless for he didn't immediately know which way to run. But the unexpected result of my outburst was the terror it caused the two little robin nestlings who leaped from their nest taking flight for the first time in their lives. They made it about 30 feet before tumbling to the grass on the fairway. Their mother started shrieking and fluttering about as they fumbled around. After a minute I thought maybe I'd chase them down and what? Return them to their nest? I didn't know what I would do but the mother was shrieking and the babies were on the fairway and before I knew it I was chasing birds in my pajamas before God and golfers.

I suppose the chicks were so close to leaving the nest anyway since they were able to dodge me. Not knowing what else to do I left them to their fate. I think they'll be okay; they were farther along in their development than I thought. I've googled robins and now know that at 15 days the chicks are ready to depart the nest, about 8,015 days sooner than human offspring (more if they go on the five-year college plan) For the rest of the day I kept thinking about how surprised we all were at that moment when I startled them out of their nest--me, for not realizing they could fly, they too, for that matter, not knowing they could until the moment called them, or screamed to them, "NOW!"

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