Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Drama on a small scale

The Doll house is not the only scale stuff that's been going on around here. There has been a major drama unfolding on a very small scale in my back yard.

I have many birdhouses, but my favorite was a gift from my husband. It is shaped like a tiny Cape Cod style house, red with little windows in the roof, and even a front porch. When we moved last year, it came out of the packing boxes and was temporarily placed on the railing of the pagoda in the yard. It hasn't moved since.

A few weeks ago whilst eating lunch in the pagoda, I noticed some grass and twigs poking out of the circular hole in the door. It looked like someone was building a nest!

My suspicions were confirmed a week later when we noticed two tiny birds coming in and out of the house with what looked like grubs. Two days after that we heard the first tiny squeaks of baby voices. By now, Mama and Papa bird were coming in and out of the nest every two minutes or so, to feed their hungry brood.

Within another two days, the baby chirps had reached such a pitch that we could hear them from anywhere in the house. I looked in my bird book and I think they are they are Bewick wrens.  The parents continue to work at least fourteen hours a day to keep up with their needs. Seeing and hearing the birds and their babies gives me such a simple sense of pleasure and joy. This is the first time one of my birdhouses has been occupied, and it's been a thrill to watch Mr and Mrs Bewick raise their family - both in my yard, and in a perfect little house for them.

The nest was becoming very crowded. There seems to be at least four of five youngsters. The babies would gape at the hole when the parents returned, and I became concerned they might fall out. Later that day I noticed one of the chicks had fallen out onto the deck area. I knew I shouldn't touch it, and at the time was busy feeding my own baby bird, so decided to go out again later, when my own baby was tucked safely in her little nest. When I did, the baby was no longer there. I checked the floor and surrounding area, but couldn't see anything, and secretly hoped the parents had managed to push the baby back into the box.

The next morning, as the dawn broke, the babies started to chirp as Mama and Papa flew from the nest to find breakfast. Their day was already well underway by the time I got up and pulled the curtains. Right then, we watched in horror as a Stellar Jay flew towards the box and grabbed one of the babies, right from the hole. The Jay flew to the fence, with the baby in it's beak and smashed it against the fence. The Bewick's cursed and swore at the Jay, but it was too late. We went outside to 'shoo' the Jays, but they continued to return as we prepared to leave the house. Before I left, I checked the nest, and could still see at least three young.

Later, when I returned home, the garden seemed quiet. When my daughter was asleep, I crept out and sat in the pagoda, waiting for the familiar chirping, and the regular visits from Mr and Mrs Bewick. 


After twenty minutes of waiting in silence, I checked the nest and found it empty. I suspect once the Jays knew the nest was there, they systematically picked off the babies, one by one, until they were gone. 

I imagined the parents returning with a grub that final time to find an empty nest, and no reason to stay. I wondered if they grieve? I wondered if the sorrow hangs with them as they fly away, or whether their job is finished and they think no more about it.

The garden felt quiet and empty for days. So did I. I mourned the loss of the Bewick children at the hands of the Stellar Jays.

I left the house alone for several weeks, just incase. Then yesterday I decided it was time to sort through it. Layer upon layer of first twigs and then grass, followed by feathers and fluff. So precise, so deliberate. Whilst taking the contents to the green can, I hear the chirping of other fledgling birds, old enough to fly, but not old enough to feed themselves, and I watch as their parents flutter about to keep them happy and fed. The circle of life. And now it's time to feed my little one again.


  1. Jays are brutal. My cat found a hummingbird nest a few years ago and crawled out on a branch I had thought was too slender to support a predator. I arrived at the end of the drama. I too had been watching the babies develop. Nature is tough.

  2. What a very sad tale, Joanna. Sob!

  3. Hi Joanne,
    I'm in love with this gorgeous Birdhouse, but I'm so sad to hear about the loss of the Bewick wrens.
    What a joy it must have been to have watched them and had them in your life, even if only for a little while.
    Vicky xxx