|Motionless she sat|
I had just sat down at the edge of our blackberry patch to begin rooting out mugwort when I heard the most terrible language—letting me know I was persona non grata.
I was surprised by the noise—which was coming from a purple-leaf plum tree about 40 feet away. I couldn’t see the fowl-beaked speaker, who must have been hidden inside the plum tree. But I knew from his sound that he was an American Robin, and he wanted me to move on—pronto.
But I was 40 feet away. Why was he yelling at me?
Suddenly I thought I knew why. I slowly turned to my left and looked up into the variegated holly that grows at the southeast corner of our house, about five feet from where I sat. My eyes focused up and into tree. About three feet above the ground, near the trunk, behind a prickly fortress of leaves, was a nest on which a second robin sat motionless.
I smiled, and went to retrieve my camera from inside the house. When I returned, I moved slowly toward the tree. The robin on the nest didn’t move a feather, even when I was just two feet away.
I fiddled with my camera for a second or two and when I focused on the nest I noticed that the robin has turned, bill now pointing east, not west. How did she do that in an instant, without my seeing?
I took several photos and returned to rooting out mugwort and slowly worked my way down the blackberry bed and away from the nesting robin.
And I thought about the bird on the nest—and the one in the plum tree: devotion, maternal and paternal instinct, courage in view of what might be a monstrous danger.
What chance is there that the eggs in the nest will hatch, grow, and fledge? Squirrels or blue jays might brunch on the eggs. A crow, feral cat, raccoon, or an opossum might dine on the hatchlings.
I recalled the “Urban Jungle” column by Patterson Clark in the Washington Post that indicated that there is only a 55% probability that one hatchling will survive and fledge from the open nest.
The robins might sense I’m the biggest threat to their nest, but I am now a protector. When I hear the jays screaming or the crows cawing in the morning, I step outside and make my presence known. They quickly move on.
But I cannot be on guard 24/7.
So I wonder. How many will live long enough to leave the nest?
To read Patterson Clark’s “Urban Jungle” column, “Success in the City,” CLICK HERE.