Backyard Birds

Backyard+Birds

  Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

  Recently, I have been fortunate enough to do just that – to experience and learn from an incredible phenomenon of nature happening right where I live.

  In mid-April, I happened to look out my dining room window one afternoon to see something very curious. To my surprise, on our covered porch where there is a tall plant rack, I saw a pair of Mourning Doves gathering up twigs and small branches to form a nest on the top shelf of the rack.  

  The next day, I looked out again to find the two doves sitting together in their newly built nest and also heard their cooing sounds, which, although deemed “sad” by most, I think sound very peaceful. At that point, it was clear that it was mating season.

  The doves felt they had found a safe and protected little space to tend to the incubation and raising of their new family. My parents and I realized that we were going to have a front row seat for the entire exciting process.

  This event, alone, represented something special to me. I was about to witness life in front of my eyes, and I wasn’t going to let anything disrupt it.

  Since the nest was just a few feet from our front door, we made that entrance off limits, so as not to disturb or frighten the birds. As a family, we resorted to only using the garage entrance, and to keep others away, we put up yellow caution tape across the front door walkway with a sign saying “Wet Cement – Do Not Enter.”  (Yes – this actually worked!)

  Being as curious as I am, I went straight to the internet to learn more about the birds themselves. I found out it takes about 14 days for the eggs to hatch once they eggs are laid.

  I also realized the female and male birds actually switch off incubating the egg, with the male taking the day shift and the female taking the night shift.  

  As luck would have it, just when we thought we done everything to guard the birds’ safety, misfortune struck.

  A few days after the doves started their surveillance routine, my mom called out frantically from the dining room. I ran in to see our neighbor’s cat coming up our walkway eyeing the birds’ nest, looking as if it was ready for dinner.

  I envisioned the cat jumping up on the rack, scaring the dove off, and devouring the eggs, if in fact there were any there, since we had yet to see any. But I was determined to not let this happen.

  I went outside through the garage and came around the front walk, inadvertently trapping the cat between me and the birds – not smart!

  The cat ran away suddenly, but, in doing so, frightened the dove, which also frantically flew to safety into the trees. In the nest, it left one small, delicate, white egg.   

  I remembered reading on the internet that these birds would leave their nest and abandon their eggs if they felt even the slightest bit threatened, yet I didn’t think that would ever come to fruition.

  But there I stood, looking at the little egg alone in the nest now abandoned by its parents – and feeling completely responsible.

  My mom tried to console me by saying that just the fact that a nest was built at our home was a sign of good fortune – even if it was abandoned. Clearly, she didn’t see this ending well.

  Needless to say, that did little to help me, and I went to bed that night very sad and fearful that the nest had been deserted, yet praying that the parents would come back.    

  Fortunately, my prayer was answered. The next morning, we saw the mother sitting on the egg like nothing had ever gone wrong – miracles do happen!

  This proved to me how dedicated these birds were as parents – at least the two that came to live with us!  To feel that threatened, but still come back and care for their baby showed more than just instinct – it demonstrated the wonders of the heart of nature.

  Over the course of the next weeks, the nest was occupied 24/7 by one of these devoted birds. While we kept watch over our birds, our birds kept watch over their egg. Several times a day we would peek out the window to see if the little squab (the term for a baby Mourning Dove) had hatched.     

  For about two weeks, all was quiet, and we hadn’t seen anything unusual going on. But then, my life changed!

  Walking past the window one morning, I timed it perfectly to see the two parents switching their watch duties. It was then that I finally saw it – a tiny, dark, baby Mourning Dove. It was small, fluffy and incredibly cute. But before I could call out to my parents or whip out my phone to snap a photo, he was gone. The adult bird nestled over him again, protecting the squab from the outside world underneath its large feathers.           

  Every day, I saw more and more of the squab each time I passed by the dining room window. Sometimes I saw a parent feeding it, other times it was attempting to flap its wings, and maybe even once or twice I saw it poop.

  The special part of this was being able to see life in front of my eyes.

From seeing the nest being built, to the sole white egg, to the parents working as one in their devoted vigil, to the precious squab itself, I now have a deeper appreciation for nature and the beauty of new life.

  As I write this, I am still waiting for the squab to fly away and leave its nest. While that day will be sad, I will always appreciate my Mourning Doves and their squab who gave me an up-close and personal glimpse and understanding of the amazing world of nature – right outside my window.

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