To build a nest


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It’s quite a surprise, and an honor, to watch some special place actually get made. I saw a robin build her nest in the rhododendron bush just off my front porch. There was this fluttering and darting into and out of the foliage. Over and over. I quietly got up to look. A wounded bird? A demented squirrel? A lost chipmunk? All I saw was a pile of dry stems and grasses. They were not in the crotch of the bush, but only on the ground below. It finally occurred to me that I was witnessing “nest-building” or some variation of it. I sat back down to watch. Soon she showed up again with a beak full of dried grasses and flicked her head at the rhody branches. Down to the ground. This happened several more times. Even the brighter-breasted male was gathering materials. I was so tempted to start the nest for her. Just a helping hand. I could place a few sturdy twigs, perhaps screw them in and put in a mud sub-floor? I did not.

This seemed an exercise in futility. Was it just chance that was going to finally get those grasses and twigs to catch? I was both judgmental and awed by the relentless stamina of this robin. Frustration and self-doubt didn’t seem as hardwired into the robin brain as the relentless urge to build.

As humans do, I finally got bored or hungry or distracted and left. Three days later, I remembered this whole little drama and came back to look. There it was!

Sturdy, quite round, protected, mud-lined with a feathery coating. I was humbled. No help needed from a rustic carpenter.

In a few days, four blue eggs appeared. In another few weeks, they hatched. Both parents came and went with bits of food. After another few weeks of chirping and feeding, those fledglings left. Parents, too.

The nest is still in that rhody. I hear it’ll not likely be used again because of parasites like lice and mites and the leftover poop. Should I take it out? No, I’m leaving it as a twiggy, grassy, mud reminder of who shares my world. Daniel Mack




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