Thursday, June 19, 2014

Faithful Thelma

"A mother bird sat on her egg. The egg jumped.  
'Oh oh!' said the mother bird. 
'My baby will be here! He will want to eat.  
I must get something for my baby bird to eat!' she said. 
'I will be back!' So away she went." -P.D. Eastman.

This all happened one year ago, and I've thought of it often. It's high time I tell you.

We were on our front porch when we noticed a bird was building a nest on top of one of the columns. Jason wondered if he should move the nest, to which I replied, "Of course not!" The mama bird had worked so hard on that nest.  In addition, if she had laid eggs and we moved it, she may abandon it. How could we live with that guilt over our heads? So we watched a sweet little robin as she dutifully brought twigs, dry grass and such into her nest over the next few weeks.

And then that mama, henceforth referred to as Thelma, sat. She sat and sat and sat. And we watched.
I couldn't tell if she liked our company or felt threatened by it. But then again, she chose that spot, so she must have been watching us and felt it safe to be amongst this family with a barking dog and loud, silly boys often armed with squirt guns and water balloons.

Then during porch conversations one evening, Jason stopped me mid sentence, "Sshhh. Listen!".  And we heard it: a tiny, darling, beautiful chirp. The eggs had hatched! We proceeded to listen to these little dears over the next few weeks and my bird admiration grew. I just had to see! So I stood on chairs, I climbed the porch railings, I grabbed the ladder- camera in hand. Neighbors would drive past and I would wave sheepishly, wondering if I was now referred to as "the bird lady". But it paid off.  Before long, look who started poking their little beaks up.
Their meek chirps quickly turned into desperate cries. They became very demanding, these little ones. They were constantly hungry.
Thelma, was a busy little lady! The majority of her day was spent flying around the neighborhood in search of worms. As soon as she brought one, she would fly off to find another. In the meantime, the birds would practically fall out of the nest in their pleas for more.
Our bird watching continued. We were homeschooling for kindergarten at the time and this was by far, the best science lesson of the year.

I found myself worrying about Thelma, it seemed like she never got any rest. I worried about the babies, too. During this time our house was on the market, and one of the tasks on our to-do list was to have the house power washed. I scheduled the appointment, thinking nothing of it until a quiet moment. I awoke from a deep sleep (if I'm being honest, it was probably a nap), realizing that the birds would not fare well if they were hit with a blast from the power washer. The pressure of those machines can be extremely strong and they're really loud. I wanted to cancel the appointment, but I was talked out of doing so. The dreaded morning came and the workers had not even finished walking up the driveway when I yelled, "We have birds!" I showed them the nest, explained how fragile the birds were, and kindly asked that they worked around that area of the porch. Then I casually asked if they had heard about The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which made it illegal to harm or tamper with many bird species, robins included. I informed them that the penalty for doing so can be a fine of up to $500, or 6 months in jail. They smiled nervously and assured me that they would not wash away the birds. While we were out that day, I worried about them terribly; I had a pit in my stomach thinking about their ordeal. I can't even imagine what Thelma was going through, wondering what that awful noise was, and not being able to reach her babies or to feed them. What if she was too frightened to return? Thank goodness though, the power washing ended, all the birds were spared and that faithful mama was back at her worm business before long. 

The birds continued to grow, just look how big they got!
I was perfectly content to go on watching these little ones and their mama and then one day, One Day, we were on the porch and I noticed one of the birds looking brave. He peered over the edge of the nest, looked down, looked up- and flew. He flew! Right out of the nest and away. Then the others, I could see their apprehensive determination until one by one they flew away out of the nest never looking back. I could. not. believe. that the boys and I had witnessed this. It hadn't even crossed my mind that we might see them fly away from the nest. 

Immediately I thought of Thelma, I'm not even sure where she was at the time. Did she see them? She must have known it was coming. Surely, she would feel a hint of sadness upon their departure, but how PROUD she must have been.  The whole occurence was amazing.  As I reflected upon it, I wondered if I would ever experience anything like it again. And then I realized, of course I will.


  1. Beautiful! Thanks, Erin. Those boys are so lucky to have you as a mom!

  2. Love this! Shell probably be back next year - they often return. And she's always watching when they fly - sometimes, Shell even push them out of she thinks they're resdy. And if they fall, because sometimes, they're not immediately successful at flying, she'll watch from nearby a d scare off predators until they fly. It's an amazing thing to watch, and makes me cry every time!

    1. That's awesome- they are truly fascinating!

  3. why did you have to make me cry?! amazing story! you could write a children's book with that story

  4. That was beautiful Erin and yes you will feel the same thing one day....

  5. I so, so, so, enjoyed this post today. Thanks for writing it, Erin, and for gathering all those great pictures. So sweet and so true. I can hardly imagine you telling those guys about the migratory act and possible consequences. You are so bold! Yay for you!

    In our world... Liam got a birdhouse kit for his birthday. He built it and painted it bright red and hung it on the maple tree by our driveway. We were DELIGHTED when a bird made a nest. The house was low enough that the kids and I could look right in and see the eggs and then the baby birds. When they were about a week old, a friend witnessed a Huge black snake coming out of the nest. =( No more birds. I feel like our house was a bit of a trap for them... or for the snake? Darn.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon!

    1. Thanks, Rachel! And, oh my goodness- that snake! Hope Liam wasn't too disappointed...


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