It would be light before long.
So as I’ve been doing since reading Maria Fabrizio’s fabulous Cultivating Creativity, I pulled my body from beneath the covers, splashed water on my face and headed to the Keeping Room for a little before-work writing. I fed the dog and made coffee, then I made an impromptu decision to walk down to the studio for a quick minute to say good morning to the bluebirds. They’ve been so kind to me with this brood, indulging me while I take endless photos as they feed and feed and feed the five nestlings.
(Did you know there were five? Did I show you the photo with that surprise?)
I’d checked on them one more time last night just before dark. They were sleeping peacefully, their little tummies filled with a grand assortment of creepie-crawlies from our yard.
Might as well take my camera I thought this morning and grabbed the one with the big lens.
I stood for a few minutes looking out the window. The sun was up now, so the light was good for a photo. I’d surely not need to wait more than five or ten minutes for one of the parents to show up with breakfast. I could spare that writing time. They wouldn’t be babies for long, after all.
Ten minutes passed.
I don’t know what’s keeping them I thought. Maybe they don’t feed first thing in the morning? But surely they do. I’ll count to a hundred, and one will show by then and I can get back upstairs to my writing.
Okay, I’ll count to two hundred.
Okay, three–but then I have to go up.
About that time Papa flew to the brick column just across from me, and delighted, I snapped this photo.
He flew over to the nest box, looked in the hole, looked away, then flew toward our yard’s outer trees, the spider still in his beak.
That’s curious I thought. The Mama must be in the box with the babies. I’ll wait just a bit and she’ll fly out.
Five more minutes pass.
I don’t hear the babies, I realize. So I open the window closest to the nest box and wait.
Not a peep.
It took all I had to walk over to the box, climb up on the chair and shine my iPhone flashlight into the opening. I could see bare nest, so I immediately knew something was wrong. I unhooked the latch, pulled down the door and saw that four of the babies were missing and one was still there, dead.
The nest was undisturbed.
I have spent this day thinking of those birds: the miracle of them emerging from those tiny blue eggs; the desperate hunger cries from their big gaping beaks; the devotion of the parents, who nonstop cared for the babies and also watched out for each other.
I think of the predator: the snake (most likely) that was simply doing what snakes do in seeking out this meal; my insistence last summer that we kill the giant one we found lying on the mallard nest eating the eggs (and my worry that snake karma would get me back); the horror and magnitude of the circle of life.
I grieve for them all and worry greatly about the Mama bluebird. I haven’t seen her and can only hope she is somewhere safe.
At a client event this morning, a local pastor offered a prayer that included a passage from Psalm 118.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Rejoice and be glad, I thought.
Some days this is tougher than others.
Note: I posted a precious, happy video of the babies yesterday before discovering the situation downstairs. After that I didn’t have the heart to put the link on Facebook or Twitter, so if you’d like to see it but didn’t, click here. It’s a nice memorial, I think.)
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