It's that time in the cycle of life when the little birds are staking out territory, building nests, and incubating young ones, and so I was reminded of crossing paths late last spring with a pair of robins in the process of raising a family. They had built a lovely home for their clutch of blue eggs; the construction site was not high up in a tree, however, but atop a small woodpile, not three feet off the floor of an unused cabin’s porch. The first time I noticed it I had been sitting on said porch, engrossed in a book, but finally made to look up and around by the incessant and distinctive chirping of an annoyed robin.
“What’s your problem?” I asked, and then spied the nest, almost close enough to touch. “Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.” I relocated to a further corner and tried to be inconspicuous while the robin (mother or father, I don’t know) swept in, sat on the nest for a moment, then flew off again, scolding me severely. Over the next couple of weeks the parents adjusted somewhat to my occasional presence—enough so that one of them would sit for several minutes on the eggs while I was around, but also enough so they felt comfortable kind of dive bombing me and telling me in no uncertain terms that they didn’t especially care for me being so close. Then came the day I saw the little fluff balls in the nest where eggs had been. Very cool! By my next visit, though, disaster had struck, at least from the robins’ perspective. The nest was gone—not a twig or a pinfeather left. It must have been easy pickin’s for a coon or a fox—I suppose even a bear could have ambled up the porch steps and had a nice snack. Maybe it was this pair’s first foray into parenthood, or perhaps there was another reason. Regardless, they had not chosen their location well, and the results were deadly.
A friend told me she had seen something similar with Baltimore orioles. They had hung their nest on a low branch, giving a hungry raven the proverbial birds-eye view of the goings-on. When the time was right, access was easy. Everybody’s got to eat, right?
They say elephants mourn their dead. I don’t know about robins. But they often hatch two batches of little ones in a summer, so it’s possible the couple I was watching learned, if not mourned, from their mistake and enjoyed more success their second time around.
At least they did not rebuild on the same woodpile.