I mentioned a couple of months ago that we’ve had a lot of robins nesting in our neighbor- hood this year. Although spring is prime nesting time, many bird species will hatch a second clutch of eggs in the late summer. A couple days ago, my husband was out mowing the lawn while I was preparing dinner. I went out onto the deck to start the grill and he called to me, “You just missed the excitement.” Apparently our new neighbors discovered a robin’s nest in the tree in their front yard and raised a ladder to the nest so their five year-old could get a closer look. The fledgling robins within panicked and jumped out of the nest. Attempts by the neighbors to catch them and put them back failed, and the fledglings scattered.
Today was a rainy day, so I stayed inside doing chores. Every time I went downstairs into the basement, particularly on the eastern side of the house, I could hear chirping. Since our deck runs along the eastern wall, the few windows in the basement on that side of the house are in the deck’s shadows. I couldn’t see what was making the noise, but all afternoon, as I scrubbed the kitchen floor and rinsed dirty rags and sponges in the basement sink, I could hear the insistent chirping.
In the late afternoon the rain let up. I started to hear a lot more birdcalls from the back yard, so I decided to go outside and see what was up. As I came out onto the kitchen stoop, a pair of robins burst out of the shrubbery beside the deck. One perched on a nearby birdfeeder and yelled; the other went into the dogwood and chased off a mockingbird that was hanging around the yard. All three birds seemed focused on the northeast corner of the deck, so I headed in that direction. As I did so, the robins both yelled even more desperately.
Some years ago John ran a length of netting along the sides of the deck to keep autumn leaves from blowing underneath it. As I parted the shrubbery, I saw a young robin caught in the netting. It wasn’t snarled in it, but was caught up in a fold and couldn’t back out. I picked up the netting and tried to gently shake the fledgling free, but it only scrambled deeper inside, becoming more entangled by the minute and shrieking with fear. I went over to my potting bench, got a pair of scissors and cut a slit in the netting. I reached inside, took hold of the bird and lifted it out. It jumped out of my hand and half-flew, half-ran across the back yard. The other robins swooped toward it, so I decided my work was done and went inside to wash my hands. When I looked outside again, the young robin was in the middle of the yard, being fed a beakful of worms by an adult bird.
Several hours later I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and heard frantic birdcalls again. I went out on the deck and saw no less than a dozen robins, flying back and forth in the trees. I leaned over the deck rail and saw the same little robin sitting about ten feet out into the yard. “What’s the matter this time, little dummy?” I said. The little robin didn’t move, but the adult birds kept up their anxious calling. I decided to go down to the bird and see what was up, but as I started down the deck steps, I saw the problem: my neighbor’s large gray cat was sitting in the herb garden that runs along the deck overhang. The cat wasn’t stalking the little robin; it was just sitting there, but I shooed it home. The little robin hopped to the back of the yard, where it perched on a stone beside the toolshed and fluffed its feathers.
I stood on the deck for a while, watching it as dusk fell. I wondered if I should chivvy it to the middle of the yard, where it could hide in the hosta bed until morning, but finally I decided to let it be. Nature is often cruel, but the little bird had made it thus far, and perhaps Fate will deal the little robin a kinder hand tomorrow.