I hope you will remember this photo for a long, long time. Take a good look; hold the image tight in your heart where its glory can root and lay claim. It is one of the baby bluebirds, you see, one of the miracle babies, now four days out of the nest.
They took flight while I was elsewhere, doing other things, and so I don’t have a full report. Just bits and pieces, snippets here and there, a story pulled together one thread at a time, a story so filled with assumption who even knows. And yet it is all we have, you and I, fellow travelers in a remarkable journey of love, and loss, and liberation. And so we shall bravely go there together, into the final (?) chapter of an unlikely tale, the saga of the bluebird babies who came into this world—we might as well say it—on a wing and a prayer.
This was the scene six days ago, two days after that awful birdhouse attack that left the nest overturned and the babies in a listless, unmoving pile. But we righted the nest and the parents came and the babies rebounded and we rejoiced!
This is what we know for sure:
- There were, in the beginning, five eggs.
- Four babies were born, a substantiated fact.
- At least three babies (see above) survived the attack.
- While three survivors was more than enough reason to rejoice, still I prayed and prayed and prayed that when they fledged, there would be four.
This is what made me believe:
- The parents fed those babies every 10 minutes, no exaggeration.
- The routine was always the same.
- From the perch, fill the big, hungry, demanding, extruding mouths. (See below.)
- Then go completely into the nest, and in 30 seconds or so, fly out again.
Surely that meant there were one or two little ones inside there. Surely that was evidence Mama and Papa were providing for everyone—even the least strong of the family.
I came home on Saturday after a full day out. Tim was sitting on the deck by the water when he said Oh! Did I tell you? I think the babies flew!
I ran for my camera so fast I didn’t even get the whole story. He may have said something like two of them or there were three or who knows? And then I was on the patio and I saw the Papa in the Crape Myrtle and the flash of a baby just to my right, on a low branch of the Redbud Tree.
Hey baby I said as I tiptoed nearer. Look at you.
And there he was, so uncertain all I wanted to do was reassure him, to rub his head and say I am so proud and what a miracle you are and how marvelous it is that the whole world is in front of you.
And then he flapped his wings and made a move to fly but instead, clumsily landed on the pine straw below.
I love you little guy I said and he looked back at me and this time he flew off, his sights set on a more distant tree.
I watched and waited, waited and watched in hopes of spotting his siblings. The parents were all about, that was for sure, fretting and hunting and calling. But I never saw him again. And I never saw his brothers and sisters.
After a long while, I made my way back to the birdhouse for a final look. I turned on the iPhone light and to my surprise there, just beneath the bird cutout opening, was the spread of a baby bluebird’s tail feathers.
There is still a baby in the nest! I said out loud, running for Tim. How many did you see fly? In my head I was sure there were three, so maybe this was the mysterious fourth baby, in need of some extra growing time.
I didn’t see them leave so I don’t really know, he said.
The parents didn’t return to the nest Saturday night, best I could tell, and I didn’t see them Sunday morning. I got up early to watch, knowing it was prime feeding time. With no sight of them I made my way over to the nest, praying praying praying I would find it empty, that the last baby had fledged sometime during the night. But the tail feathers were still there; there hadn’t been any change at all.
I know how I should feel about the miracle of the fledglings: immense gratitude and joy and hopefulness. I know I should trust that the parents knew what to do, that the remaining baby was not simply forgotten. (In fact, I do know this.)
Still my heart longs for more. I want to know how many are out there, how many made it. I want to know if the last little bird was #4. I want to know what happened, why—even though its tail feathers look fully developed—the last nestling never made it out of the die cut bird opening of my silly decorative bird house.
And so let’s make the story our own, shall we? Let’s agree that right this moment, just there in the woods at the curve of the cove, Baby #1 (Harry!), Baby #2 and Baby #3 are having a glorious afternoon flying and landing and swooping and hopping and laughing, all together.
And just in the distance is their mother, quietly watching. Knowing this victorious day is one for pure joy, but feeling all the same it happened too soon. The days flew too fast, the time with her babies—precious and holy—passed much too quickly.
The Bluebird Story, start to finish
April 23, 2014 Surprise, Surprise, (Surprise, Surprise, Surprise)!
April 28, 2014 The Good, The Bad, and the Oh My
April 29, 2014 UPDATE!!! (OR Day 27)
April 30, 2014 Panic: Day 2
May 1, 2014 Day 3: (Happy) Drama
May 4, 2014: There’s Something About Harry.
May 6, 2014: Baby Bluebirds, the movie
May 8, 2014: And So On.
May 11, 2014: Sometimes, you just have to shout.
May 14, 2014: Heartbreak. And a Little Joy.
May 19, 2014: To Feed or Not to Feed.
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