Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mrs. Robin Red-Breast

Keith and Christine recently had a special “daddy-daughter” date night by going to Cincinnati to see a rock concert. Sugarcult—Christine’s current favorite bands—was playing at a small college and tickets were very reasonably priced. Christine was so excited, and Keith went through pure heck to be able to take her.

Because the concert was on a Friday night, it was still a work day for Keith. Normal workdays for Keith are mornings with him getting home sometime between 8 and 9, depending on the day. On this particular day, he switched shifts with a videographer from the night shift, so the day of the concert he had to get up at 2 a.m. and be to work by 4. By the time he got home it was two in the afternoon, so he only had time for a short nap before they had to leave the house again. Between the Diet Mt. Dew, caffeine pills and caffeine gum, he was determined to take Christine to the concert and they were going to have a great time.
Naturally, I was worried the entire time they were gone. I worried that Keith hadn’t had enough rest. I worried they would be in a wreck or worse. Normally, when there is a concert, I would be with Keith and Christine, but recently, my anxiety has been preventing me from being in large groups of people. I don’t know why I worry more about them when I’m not with them than I do when I’m with them. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I got a voice mail from Keith about 8:30, and they were already at the arena and they were already talking with some members of the band. It sounded like they were having a great time. I couldn’t wait until they got back home to tell me the whole story

While they were gone, I worked in the yard. I’m totally seeing my front garden in a new light. The front yard garden should be very eye-catching and contain samples of plantings from all over my yard. I learned this recently when I was admiring a new spring store display at the Shaker Village Craft Store. The wonderful display was fresh and pretty and put me in the mood to redecorate. To the average customer, this is just a pretty display set up for people to look at, but working behind the scenes, I realized, this display exhibited a wide range of the items sold in the gift shop.

This is how I see my yard—a one acre lot surrounded by native shrubbery with numerous gardens interspersed throughout. I have a shoe garden, a rock garden, a prayer garden, a veggie garden, a treehouse garden; I could go on and on. So, my front garden should be a collage of all the gardens on our property. I settled in for an afternoon of planning, dreaming and digging in the dirt. Little did I know that another family would greatly limit my ability to concentrate on particular areas of the front garden.

The Robin family had decided to make the English Ivy growing up the anchoring wire to a utility pole near our mailbox their home for the summer. I first discovered the nest when Keith was helping me prune the ivy into shape. I want the ivy to grow all the way up the wire, but it has stopped halfway up and is now growing back down to the ground. This makes a wonderful cascade of English ivy, but I wanted the dead wood removed and it needed to be pruned into shape. Keith pointed out the nest to me while I was up on the ladder, so I had the bird’s eye view—four baby blue robin eggs tucked all together in the next. I immediately quit pruning the ivy; that project will just have to wait until the babies have flown the nest.

I remember the summer of Junie B. Jones—the mother wren that raised her young ones in the hanging basket on our front porch—and I started to get warm fuzzy thoughts about how much fun Christine and I had while watching the life span of the wren’s children. This year, Christine is too old to have much interest in the gardens, so I’m usually alone in the garden with no one to enjoy the little treasures I discover every time I am outside. But that’s okay, I still enjoy being outdoors and maybe one day, I’ll have grandkids to enjoy the gardens with. I decided that I would chronicle the lives of Ms. Robin and her family.

Two weeks after finding the robin’s nest with eggs, three of the eggs hatched. The little featherless birds were so ugly and so totally dependent on their mother and father. The good thing about robins is that the pair of them helps with the baby care. With most other birds, the male leaves the care of babies to the mother. Both mother and father would chirp noisily at me every time I would come near the nest. I had to limit my gardening to small spurts, whenever Mr. and Mrs. Robin were not feeding the little ones.

After the first week, there were only two babies left. I never did find out what happened to the third baby. There was no sign of it falling out of the nest, so I guess I’ll never know what happened. Now there are just the two babies and I can see growth in them every day. The ugly little babies from a few weeks ago have now turned into miniature versions of their parents. Their feathers have come in and every time something comes near the nest, they start to chirp and open their little beaks for food. They really are cute now.

I am sure there are more robin families in my gardens because I’ve noticed several of them chirping loudly at me when I’m working in the yard. I usually don’t go looking for the nests, but occasionally, like the one in the ivy, I will happen upon one during my work in the garden. I think they are finally getting used to me being around, because now whenever I sit down to rest, the robins will peck at the ground looking for worms or nesting materials. They are so cute when they cock their little heads and look at you.

When you are planning a new garden, think about planting for the birds. Bird watching is a wonderful way to pass a quiet evening. It is calming and relaxing to just sit and listen to the different songs each bird makes, to watch them splashing around in a birdbath, or even flitting through the sprinklers. Now if you will excuse me, I think I’ll go do some bird watching.
[PS: since this article was written at the end of May, I have had four other Robin families give birth. Watching these babies was as much fun as watching the first ones!}

© Bobbi Rightmyer, May 2006