Sunday, May 17, 2009

Once a Mother . . .

. . . always a mother. 

Is there any mother who doesn’t feel empathy with another mother as we watch her try to launch a troublesome child on the path to adulthood?  It’s a sisterhood that crosses racial lines and—occasionally—even species lines.

 I spent Mother's Day and most of this past week fostering this little chickadee who just wouldn't spread his wings and fly.  

He had tumbled out of the nest and spent most of the day on the grass until it started to rain, whereupon I splashed out and brought him onto the porch.  Once the sun came out, so did he; and his worried parents spent the rest of the day stuffing his little beak with bugs and worms  in a desperate effort to build up his muscles.

I was afraid to leave him exposed on the ground all night, so for the next three evenings, I would put him in one of the flower boxes beneath the nest so that his mama could keep an eye on him while she brooded his less-adventuresome siblings.

Although he was never happy about being picked up and brought to safety, he was too inexperienced to be afraid of me and even took a little suet from the tip of my finger.

Like most mothers who think their parenting skills are being dissed, the exasperated chickadee mom kept telling me to mind my own business.   

“So get him to fly,” I told her, “before a cat or a hawk or a snake finds him.”   

By Wednesday he was taking short hops with much fluttering of his little wings.  On Thursday he flutter-flew ten feet at a time, while his mom encouraged him with promises of juicy insects if he’d just come on up to that low-hanging limb.

When I went out to fetch him at twilight, he was nowhere in sight, so I’m pretty sure he was safely up in a tree. (Had a snake or cat threatened, there would have been raucous screams from more birds than just the hovering parents.)

“Thank goodness that’s done with,” I told my husband when I came out Friday morning to water the porch plants.  Just as I lowered a hanging basket of Bridal Veil Wandering Jew, a Carolina wren flew out.  I don’t know which of us was more startled.  Or more provoked.   

You guessed it:  there in the middle of the plant is a perfectly woven nest with five tiny speckled eggs.

Here we go again. (Sigh.)

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