It was a Tuesday, around noon. Windy, warm, alternately sunny and cloudy; a spring day floating away on cliches. And then I saw something on the ground. And then I saw Daisy, ferocious-feline huntress, stalking the something on the ground. And then, in an impressive flurry of middle-aged mind mathematics, I understood that the baby bluebirds were trying to fledge.
Mama Bluebird, Papa Bluebird and Aunt Lisa were hysterical. Mom and Dad Bluebird were actually doing something constructive, diving and cursing at Daisy, while my barefoot-self screeched and screamed and yelled for one of my own offspring to bring me some shoes.
The youngest, a 9-year-old, appeared with his mother’s gym shoes, shooed Daisy away, scooped up the unsuspecting baby bird and asked what else he could do. I was just about to wrangle the scene with overwhelming parental efficiency and wisdom but hadn’t yet managed to untie the double knots on my sneakers. By the time I was shod, my youngest had found two other fledglings, haplessly hopping – not a hint of their future-flying selves to be seen – across the rocky backyard.
Mama and Papa were still quite upset so we made the impulsive decision to pop the baby birds back into their nest box. We exiled our 3 kitties to the garage, corralled our flock of usually free-ranging chickens into the run, and for three days we watched the bluebird box.
In the meantime, I fretted that we’d done the wrong thing. I Googled for hours (somewhat reassuring). I texted my husband (very reassuring). I called the local wild bird experts (totally reassuring). I chided myself that Mom and Dad Bluebird could raise their babies however they wanted and who were we to tell them that their children weren’t ready to leave the nest?
But by late afternoon of that first day, Mom and Dad reappeared. They took up their posts on a branch 30 feet above the nest box. They brought in food and brought out dirty diapers (fecal sacs, no kidding!) They tried to tempt the babies back outside; I can just imagine the conversation:
She: You go talk to them.
He: Me? They won’t listen to me.
Baby 1: I’m not going back out there.
Baby 2: No way, did you hear that crazy woman?
Baby 3: And that cat! Yeah, we should just stay here and order take-out.
And so it went for 3 days. On Friday morning, we only saw mom and dad flutter about at first light. By mid-morning, all was quiet and we knew they’d gone. We released the kitties back out into the world – all fiercely asleep on the porch by noon – and opened the chicken run so Roo and the girls could go about their foraging in the woods.
We think maybe the bird babies prematurely tried to fledge on that Tuesday– that’s what the Cornell bird website calls it, “premature fledging” -- perhaps because of our histrionic spring weather this year or too much chicken activity in the yard or maybe just the daring bravado of the young. It doesn’t matter. We got to witness certain and caring parents as they sent their babies out into the world, going boldly and confidently into all that it might hold.