Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Whose Nest Matters Most?

At my house this week, we're readying ourselves for some sprucing-up projects -- a new patio, exterior paint, new outdoor lighting -- and it's making me feel very...settled.  We've lived for 5 years in this comfortable and sweet house,  and having a brightening-up done feels like a promise to the house that we've loved it.  Like a makeover + pedicure + massage all rolled into a gift package for the home that's cared for us so well, welcoming babies and rowdy toddlers into its heart.  It's nothing drastic, but we're excited about it.  Also exciting is the fact that almost none of the work will be done by us, personally.  Hooray for hired contractors!

There's one thing that's been holding me back from complete enthusiasm, though. 

Last week, while staring out into the bright afternoon of our neighborhood, I kept seeing two birds coming and going from my front porch.  I peeked out several times to see what they were up to, and saw nothing that looked like it would inspire a couple of wrens to be so heavily interested in the front door.  The shiny windows, yes...but...they hadn't banged into the window as has happened before, and besides that, their actions seemed purposeful.  Not accidental. 

Later that night, I pointed them out to Justin.  Little brown creatures, quick and silent, darting towards our front door and back again.  Resting under our eaves, perching on the downspout between visits.  Still, on the porch, there was nothing but a few wasp-huts and cobwebs. 

The next morning, the couple was still at it.  I looked again, and there, on our porch light, was the beginning of a nest.  Piled and stuffed were twigs and grasses, weeds and leaves.  I was overjoyed!  A sweet little bird's nest!  It would probably soon have eggs in it and then...baby birds! 

More days passed and I saw less coming and going, now only by one of the birds.  It sat on the nest for hours at a time, only flying away if we opened the front door or when toddler-hands banged on the window.  I was desperate to see inside the nest, but it was too high above my head to get a good view.  Camera in hand, I lifted my arm as high as I could reach, and took some quick photos.  An egg-spy, I was. 

Four tiny eggs, pale and blue, rested silently in the nest.  Those eggs made me happier than any homeowner should be about an invading animal's breeding habits.  But they're so cute!  So small!  And the birds chose our house, our porch light, from which to shelter and hatch their family!

I happily showed the pictures to the girls, and to Justin, and smiled for hours afterward.

That night, I lay in bed, thinking about the house and the projects we're planning.  The contractor was coming in the morning to get information from us and set up our plans, and I had questions.  Ideas.  Hopes.  But then I remembered the bird's nest, the four tiny eggs...and I panicked! 

What happens when the house-painters want to paint right there?!  What happens when they remove the light fixture to paint around it?  What happens when the mama bird comes back and she knows her eggs have been disturbed?  Will she abandon them?  Or worse, what happens if she can't find them?!  She'll be fluttering around -- frantic! -- searching for her unborn babies, and not knowing where they are!  Her little birdy nostrils will be filled with the scent of house paint and she'll be confused, disoriented, chirping her motherly anxiety for all the neighborhood to hear!  She'll worry that her eggs have been crushed, stolen, lost.  She'll worry that her babies have hatched, only to find a cold and mother-less world around them.  She'll worry that they'll be killed by a predatory creature, and she'll soar in circles, wracked with grief for the family she didn't get to have.

I couldn't sleep that night.  Nightmares of crying babies or cheeping birds kept me awake, I couldn't tell which. 

The contractor came in the morning.  We walked around the whole house while I pointed out areas of concern and expectations.  I held my bird's-nest-fears close to my chest, hoping he would notice the nest and approach the topic himself, but he didn't.  It fell to me.  The crazy bird-loving homeowner.  The irrational, hormonal lady of the house. 

I thought about not saying a word.  After all, this is our house.  This work needs to be done, and it can't revolve around a small, worthless bird and its messy, temporary nest. 

But, you know me, right?  I pointed out the nest.  I laughed about the stupidity of my request.  I explained about the eggs.  (The contractor smiled and nodded.)

We'll see what happens.  The painting can't begin for a few more weeks, due to the contractor's other business, and I'm hoping -- hoping -- the eggs have hatched by then.  The baby birds have ventured away from the nest by then. 

Otherwise, you might drive by my house and see a relocated bird's nest and light fixture, attached to a tree in my front yard, shaded by an umbrella of some sort.  I'm just not sure what that particular line item will look like on a contractor's receipt.   


  1. Marcos Mais TerraJuly 06, 2010 12:15 PM

    Heavenly Sarah, chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. Small birds take less. It sounds like if the contractor can't get there for a few weeks, then the babies will be off on their own by the time he gets there.

  2. My sister-in-law works with birds, so I asked her how she deals with tagging and recording them and rejection by the momma bird.

    She says it's mammals that you can't touch young or they'll be rejected. Birds' sense of smell isn't good enough for them to have issues. Just don't douse yourself in perfume or synthetic scents, and you're fine.

    She does wear gloves when handling birds, but that's to protect her hands from any critters living on the birds. It's better to wait to move the nest until after the little ones are hatched, but you can move it and put it back while the eggs are unhatched and it should be okay with the momma bird.

    Hope that helps! And I hope they hatch and are fabulous fun to watch and enjoy with your family.

  3. I find your sympathy to be refreshing. I think that you are teaching your kids a great lesson on how to be stewards of this beautiful earth.

  4. Just googled the question - when in doubt ask google. House wren eggs take 13 to 15 days to hatch and about 15 to 17 days after that the nestlings will leave. Birds are anything but worthless and I feel every one is so very precious and wrens are beautiful. So if it were me I would want to wait a month and give those little chicks a chance to flourish and fly the nest.

  5. Marcos Mais TerraJuly 06, 2010 2:45 PM

    I'm with Aging Mommy on this one. Wrens are wonderful, fantastic and lovely little birds. Good for the soul to hear them singing, too. Bow-legged buddies, is what they are.

  6. Oh, man, I would feel exactly the same way!!! And little blue eggs are some of the cutest things ever!

  7. How refreshing to hear the excitement of a bird's nest on your house! It seems to me that I only hear negative reactions to such things...."oh the poop and they mess up the windows, and how annoying, yada yada yada." I sure hope you get to see those birdies hatch and enjoy watching them grow-how exciting for the girls too!

  8. I have my fingers firmly crossed that the little ones will hatch before your painting begins!

  9. I am a total animal lover. I would totally do the same thing! And my husband would roll his eyes.

  10. You are so sweet! On mother's day, I stopped 4 lanes of traffic to help two geese and 6 baby goslings across the street. I'm totally with you...

  11. Oh, Sarah, I just adore you. Mostly because you have a big heart, but the rest of that adoration stems from the fact that there is someone else in the world who lies awake at night frantically thinking about how she cannot paint her house becuase there *might* be a mother of unborn birds flying around terrified because she cannot find her babies.
    Yes, my friend, my heart would take my mind there, too.
    You crack John and me up. {Him because he thinks we're crazy --they're BIRDS. And me because I know we're right. They are birds. Birds who will have some serious psychological trauma if the nest is removed. And then they will wilfully dive headfirst kamikasi style into the glass window panes in the living room. And who will be laughing then, huh, hubbies?}
    I digress. I hope the eggs hatch soon.

  12. First of all, I love that you're guarding that nest! When I read this post, I was filled with questions...how long will it take the eggs to hatch? How long will the birds use the nest after the eggs hatch? etc. And I was just about to go on a big fact finding mission via google when I clicked the comments and realized that all your other readers already had it covered. So, let me just say, I love you; I love your birds; and I love the people who comment on your blog! (Yeah, I'm having a little love fest over here!) Keep us posted on the nest(s)!

  13. I would feel exactly the same. Fortunately for me my contractor is my husband, so he would have no choice but to wait. So it is an conundrum,and I hope beyond hope that it all works out! Keep us posted.

  14. It's your Mama instinct to guard those sweet eggs. I would feel the same way!
    If that part of the house remains unpainted, and the light fixture unchanged, we'll all smile and know why.

  15. Oh Sarah...I could relate to every single word of this! Do you remember the post I wrote not too long back about our bird's nest? I was the same way...and we left our garage doors open for two months! Even when we went away for a weekend...because I didn't want the mama bird not to be able to be with her eggs. Funny how we are so maternal at our very fundamental cores!

  16. That nest and those eggs are the sweetest thing I've ever seen. I wish I had one on my porch! I would totally want to protect it too.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?