Empty Nest

Day 36 of 365

This morning was a big morning, full of mixed feelings. Our tiny neighbors moved out. By the end, we could see that our Eastern Phoebe couple had raised FOUR beautiful babies, and that little nest was quite crowded.

On Saturday, the parents put on quite the show. It was like they decided that Saturday was the day they were getting those babies out of the nest. All day long, there was flapping and encouraging–and back and forth between the nest and the deck rail, the nest and the fence, the nest and the strawberry fence posts. Those parents were working hard!

The babies were having none of it. 

It reminded me of potty training my children. You get geared up for it and decide “this is the day we’re starting.” Then, you work so hard all day, maybe two days, maybe three days, maybe a week, and then, you’re so tired you have to take a break.

That’s what happened with the Eastern Phoebe parents. After all of that work on Saturday, on Sunday, they just rested. The babies seemed content with this plan, except that mama and daddy were feeding them far less. One time, I walked up to the nest and their little mouths opened. 

But, after that day of rest, the parents were back to work yesterday, and this time, things were hopeful. There was much wing flapping from the babies. They stood up and flutter, flutter, fluttered. 

“They’re close,” I told Ron. 

“I wonder if they’ll stick around a bit after they can fly,” he responded. 

“I hope so,” I said but worried in my heart they would head out on their own before I was ready. 

This morning, Ron was watering the garden because we didn’t get the promised rain, and I was working at the kitchen table on a special quilt for a toddler. As I stitched, I could hear a lot of fluttering outside the kitchen window. When I made it to a spot where I could take a break from my stitching, I went out to check on the nest. 

I have checked on that nest at least five but closer to ten times a day every single day since the parents started building. This morning, when I checked, the nest was empty. 

My heart sank. 

I went to check under the nest, and there were no babies on the ground. “I guess everyone flew away,” said to myself and started looking around the area. 

Then, on the strawberry patch fencing, I saw two babies. They looked just like their parents, so grown up, only smaller and with that wide baby mouth still. I walked down to see them but didn’t want to get to close. After as much study as I could give them, I made my way back to our deck, feeling melancholy for myself but proud for our little parents. 

As I headed toward the chairs on our deck, a little flutter occurred not five feet from me. And, there, on one of our chairs, one of the babies stopped, rested, and looked right at me. He just stared at me for the longest time, and I, of course, took pictures. That baby sat there forever. He or she sat there with a look like, “thanks for letting us crash here, human.”

Finally, the baby flew away. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love this little family of birds any more than I already did, but I was wrong. 

Right now, I don’t know what happens next. I am trying to find research about what happens to the babies. Do they stay close? Do they head right out? Will our little parents raise their next batch in this nest (they raise two broods each summer), or will they move on? Will they be back next year? Can I make it a year without this little joy in my life? 

What a gift this experience has been! Our deck is quite bug free; my heart is full of love; and my mind has been expanded by the learning about these wonderful birds. What a fortunate human I am!

I just have to figure out how to cope with the reality of an empty nest.  

*If you are catching this blog for the first time, you can read more about our tiny neighbors, the Eastern Phoebes, in these posts: A Tiny New Neighbor and An Update on My Tiny Neighbors.

Ruby is a mama!!!

Day 21 of 365

I am sitting on our deck as I write this, and I am listening to the baby Eastern Phoebes softly cheep for their parents. I have watched both parents go out, catch bugs, and come back to the nest all afternoon. Apparently, both the mom and the dad work hard to feed baby Eastern Phoebes, and I am thankful for all of the bug catching. But both parents are away right now, and I can just barely see movement from the rim of the best. I long to see more, but I remember my promise and keep my distance.

It must be in the air. Our Eastern Phoebe babies hatched yesterday, and then, today, when we got home from our son’s cello lessons, I thought I heard a faint cheep in the garage. And then I heard a mama hen purr, and I knew for sure! Ruby is a mama for the very first time today! She seems to be over the moon, and I am over the moon for her.

So far, two of her seven eggs have hatched, and they are a day or so early, which seems to happen a lot. One baby chick seems shy. The other seems curious about my voice. Thankfully, Ruby is being great about me taking some peeks, and I am so grateful to her for that. She pecked me a bit when I lifted her a little just to see what was going on, but it wasn’t too hard. I do need to remember to give her some space, but it’s so great when the mama hens let you in a little bit.

I honestly haven’t had a mama hen be this gentle and open in quite a few years, and this surprises me about Ruby. She’s generally a pretty grumpy girl. Not today though. Today, she’s a proud, loving mama. It’s magnificent to see.

Ron is working in the garden doing big work today. I helped for a bit but had to head inside for teaching work. Of course, every time I finish a little bit of grading, I go see what Ruby and the babies are doing. And, of course, every time I do this, I find it necessary to go out to the garden to give Ron a report. Ron is not nearly so interested though.

Our wonderful neighbor came outside to her garden (our gardens are adjacent), and Ron was like, “Why don’t you show her the babies.” I got the hint and was so thankful she came over to “ooh and ahh” with me over the babies. I will try to get a video soon, so you can “ooh and ahh” with me too.

And I have to give a quick shout out and thank you to Why Not Farms in Maine. This is where the Salmon Faverolle eggs that Ruby has been sitting on came from. I am so thankful!