I am expecting baby birds. A stupid dove made its home in a hanging plant basket right outside my front door. I was admiring my String of Pearls flowers, and thought her nest was just random twigs blown in by the wind. I tossed them into the bushes. She didn't care. She laid two eggs.
This is the best thing that ever happened to Tish and Samantha. Tish crouches under the nest, salivating, jumps onto the precarious balustrade, ogles the stool pigeon. So far I have successfully fended for the bird, but it's only a matter of time before a cat jumps into the basket and wreaks havoc. Perhaps I can keep my felines inside for a month or two. They are shedding fur like crazy, though, and I would prefer to lock them outside as often as possible. Decisions, decisions.
"Why," you may ask, "is your cat named Tish?" It's shit pronounced backwards because she's a little trouble maker. It's German for table, der Tisch, because she jumps up onto the kitchen table. What is your cat named?
I have grave doubts as to whether the eggs will hatch at all.
I walk by the String of Pearls several times a day. Each time a feathery bit of wildlife rockets out of the basket. What ho, a bird sitting in my plant? I peeked over the basket rim and discovered her eggs. The miracle of life! The dove returned minutes later to brood. Christian dropped by to take me to the movies and scared the dove away. She didn't come back for hours. The eggs were stone cold. I picked them up, held them to a strong light to look for signs of growth. I briefly considered making an omelette of them while they were fresh.
The next morning the stupid dove was sitting on her nest again. Left in the cold as long as they were, I'm dubious about the eggs' chances. The poor bird sits on them still, not knowing any better. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
My father says doves are notorious for being rotten mothers. They will nest on top of mailboxes, throw some sticks together on a tree branch, and in general fail to consider comfort and safety when selecting a nursery. This nest in my String of Pearls basket is safe as far as eggs rolling out are concerned. But there is not much chance of keeping the cats away. I could try to move the basket to a neighbor's house. Would the stupid dove be able to find her eggs there?
Today I heard a thump and a squawk. Tish frightened the dove away. The eggs turned cold as icicles. Stupid dove came back, sat on them, warmed them up. Can they survive these temperature fluctuations?
My previous concerns seem silly now. One might even say that I have egg all over my face. The babies hatched, they did, two of them, on Thursday! It only took about two weeks. Now the mother is brooding them. She never leaves. I tried to feed her a cracker on Passover, but she might be a Jewish dove, she turned her nose up at it. David says she is in a "sitting" stage which means she won't eat or leave the nest for any reason. I can stand right next to her and eyeball her. She eyeballs me right back, suspiciously.
Jacob used a book to push her gently to the side. She pecked valiantly at the intruding tome, but waddled away from her eggs and we peeked at the babies. They are very still and scraggly but you can see them quiver as their hearts beat.
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I peeked again this morning! And inadvertently did a bad thing... Yesterday I found a black umbrella in the middle of Santa Cruz Avenue. (It might be your old black umbrella.) This morning, I ran out the door into the rain, deploying my new black umbrella, and accidentally frightening the dove out of the nest. I seized the opportunity to observe her offspring. They babies are growing. Omelette to squab! Isn't nature wonderful?
Their feathers are starting to come in. One chick sported a fluffy white plume from Mom stuck to its head. I can't think of her as stupid dove anymore. Soft grey dove and her wet-looking, semi-pinnate fledgling duet. Now she is sweet dove. (With just a *little* sugar, they're sooo delicious.)
Shall I plan a poultry dinner in a month? Bwah hah harghhh.
I returned from a weekend wildflower trip with Mom on Monday, only to discover that the birds have come to an untimely end. The nest is bare. There are feathers scattered over my porch. My dinner plans are no more.
I know what you're thinking, but it isn't true. It wasn't my cats! They were locked up in the house all weekend. They must have gnashed their sharp little teeth in despair, watching some other lucky predator devour the birdies.
Joe tried to console me. "Maybe the birds grew up and flew the coop, Wendy." He couldn't explain away the feathers on the porch. His words remind me of a children's bible story. Cain didn't hurt Abel, no, Abel just flew away to the land of milk and honey.
I was in for a surprise on Friday evening. That dove was back, sitting in the hanging "string of pearls" basket. I stared in amazement. She fluttered away. There was again an egg in the nest! What a stupid dove. Would she never learn her lesson?
She didn't come back for hours. I went to bed at midnight. Still no signs of the dove.
But in the morning, she was sitting on the nest like nothing had ever happened.
A few hours later, I noticed the basket was empty. I peeked inside. The egg is gone! And there is a pile of feathers on the cement below my second-story balcony. No sign of egg yolk. What happened to the egg? Could a varmint have eaten it last night?
Child rearing is fraught with danger.