I speak robin now. I’ve heard them singing outside my window my whole life. They wake me up and they lull me to sleep. It’s only this spring that I have finally been able to understand what they are saying.
The dawn chorus is easy. They are calling out to find a mate, to show they own a patch of forest or meadow. I am here, where are you? I’m the best, bet you are, too!
Right now the robins who nested in the red pine tree in our yard are busy all day finding food for their newborn floppy-necked babies. They still find the energy to sing morning and night. This is who you are, you are a robin. Every ounce of me honours every ounce of you.
In this time when we are thinking and talking about breathing and not breathing – don’t get sick, don’t make others sick, I can’t breathe – I stop breathing, and then I hear my life-long friend the robin:
Look up, this is all there is. Now, this is all there is. See, it’s gone, but you can catch the next now. Now.
It is a happy coincidence that the return of seasonal garden and forest friends this year began at about the same time as spending time with human friends became more difficult. First to arrive just as “lock down” started were the grackles and red-winged blackbirds, loud and chatty as they announced their return and snacked at the feeder. Robins then started hopping across the few bare parts of our yard, and mallards, great blue herons, seagulls and now mergansers are all back on the river.
A pair of crows are building a nest across the creek, first plucking white pine branches off the lawn, and now gathering beakfuls of dead grass and moss for lining. They will be noisy neighbours as their fledglings are loud and constantly hungry, complaining that they are starving from dawn until dusk! I expect to find broken mussel shells on the lawn all summer as the parents sit in the trees, break the shells, extract the meat, give it to the young ones, and drop the shells. Crows and chicken keepers are good allies, though, as we are both afraid of the bald eagles and hawks that circle, and the crows will helpfully harass and chase them away.
Yesterday’s warm temperatures brought out the first bees of the year. Here’s a tricoloured bumblebee in a crocus, busy as a you-know-what.
One of the most beautiful things about the rewilding experiment I am conducting on our property is the abundance of wild blueberries growing just steps from our house, which feed so many animals: wild birds, raccoons, chickens, us!
I’m sitting here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon watching bird families coming through for a snack. First the blue jays, with their noisy, begging teenagers that demand to be fed every ten seconds. The parents drop down, pick a few berries, feed the young ones, move along. Now there are four flickers yelling at one of our cats who is strolling by.
We used to cut the grass under the trees, rake all the leaves spring and fall, keep everything nice and neat. Now it is much less work, incredibly lush, and full of natural shrubs and flowers. It’s a bit wooly looking, but we live in a forest by a tidal river and this is the way it should look.
Imagine what the world would look like if every human made decisions based on understanding that we are just one of many species and not the top of the heap.
I went back to the nest at the end of our lane a couple of times after my first post. The three eggs hatched July 9, and I saw the babies a few hours after they emerged. Both mother and father robin were very clear that I should get lost, and the babies never woke when I moved the branch over the nest.
Six days later, there was just one little baby. Birds grow so quickly!
The nest was empty a week later, and no parents were around to scold me or to tell me if the baby fledged. I think it would have been too soon, but I’ll ever know. I’ve been hearing the robins close to our house singing in the morning like they do when they first return each spring. I believe they can nest a couple of times in a summer, so perhaps they are trying again.
I noticed last week the lily-of-the-valley at the end of our lane were in bloom. There is no sweeter scent in early summer, even though my plant book tells me they are highly poisonous. This morning I set off to pick some.
Many trees came down in wind storms last winter, some large ones that were very much alive (including one giant that just grazed the gutters on our house!). One completely blocked my path to the patch, but I figured I could just squeeze by it .
As I reached out to move a branch, a robin flew off, and there was the most perfect nest, about two feet off of the ground, containing three eggs. I hurried past.
Seems the flowers had hurried past, too, and were starting to turn brown, so I’d missed my chance. I snapped a quick picture of the nest on my way back, mother robin sitting nervously in a nearby tree. She started shouting, and her mate joined in. I sped off, and calm returned.
It is good forestry practice to not be active in the woods this time of year while birds are still nesting, and this nest is a good reminder of why. It would take me less than a minute with my chainsaw to cut this skinny spruce up so I could toss it aside. I should have done it in late winter, but something always kept me from it.
But, really, nature doesn’t want or need me to cut that tree. The green needles will turn brown and fall off next year. The lower branches will decay and snow will pile on top year after year, and the branches will snap off. In a few years, the trunk will be on the ground, and the insects and microbes would really take over. In a couple of decades, the tree will be gone, having nourished other plants and trees.
In cutting the tree, I’m shaping nature to suit my needs, and I need to always be mindful of that. For now, what nature wants is for those three eggs to have a safe home, and for me to walk around another way.
(Only as I am getting ready to publish this post do I realise my first two posts heavily feature eggs. I suppose a blog should have a theme, but I rather thought the theme would be “what I’m obsessing about right now.” Guess I’m taking the hatching of a blog rather too seriously!)