I am amazed at the number of songbirds we have on the high desert of New Mexico. One would think they would prefer less arid conditions.
There is no lack of birds around our house. It helps that we have a large lot in a rural subdivision. Our back porch is shaded by a large tree. Each summer it becomes an apartment house for birds. We seldom have fewer than four pair of western kingbirds nesting there. They nest too high to see any activity until the little princes and princesses are large enough to peek over the edge of the nest, calling to be fed. Northern mockingbirds also nest in the tree. We mostly see the larger chicks and fledglings. We are entertained by the songs of the adults and occasionally entertained by fledglings learning to fly. Sparrows and finches round out the tenants in the tree. This year an English sparrow is nesting in a knot hole in the tree. It’s mate stands guard nearby.
We feed four species of hummingbirds during the summer. One fall while I was trimming branches, I found a hummingbird nest the size of a demitasse cup. The following spring we watched a female black chin humming bird choose a favorite perch just outside out back door. Day after day, she spent time in that spot, and we noticed she was slowly building a nest around herself. We thought she hatched out one or more eggs, but even when I climbed a ladder, I could not see far enough into the nest to be sure.
Mourning doves frequently nest in our fruit trees. They build their nests out of twigs. I have watched the female sit on a branch while the male brings twigs. The female carefully pokes each twig into place under her. The finished product resembles a shallow dish, but unlike most nests, it is an open construction. There is no lining. The eggs and eventually the chicks lie directly on the twigs. The nest looks so fragile one wonders how the nest can hold together on a windy day under the load of three or four medium size eggs. These nests are usually low enough to observe them easily from the ground or a step ladder. Of course mother bird flies off every time I get close, but I can easily see the eggs or the chicks. The chicks get rather large before they take to wing. Again I wonder how a fragile collection of twigs can contain three or four active youngsters.
The wonder of our property is the finch nest on our front porch light. For the past fifteen years we have had a finch build her nest on top of the porch light fixture almost every year. It is probably not the same bird each year, but each year the nest is built where I have removed the previous nest. The porch light fixture provides a secure base for the nest, and the overhanging roof gives some protection from the weather, but those human monsters keep coming and going through the door next to the light. Each time we come or go, the bird flies. In spite of that, a full hatch of fledgelings is usually produced. Often I will put the step ladder under the nest. We can climb the ladder, and with the help of a mirror, look into the nest.
Just the other day, I looked in the nest. There were three blue eggs, smaller than marbles, and one fuzzy red and yellow object. Initially I wondered if something had molded in the nest, but as I looked closely, the fuzzy ball moved. Two days later I looked again. There were no eggs visible, but the entire bottom of the nest was filled with a red and yellow fuzzy mass. Right now they mostly sleep and wiggle around. They are probably still getting nutrition from their yoke sacks, but soon four chicks will be sitting tall, demanding to be fed.
Are we fortunate to have so many birds on display? Perhaps, but then we are also observant. Even in cities, birds nest and live out their life cycles. Occasionally they build their nest on a porch or window sill, but usually you have to look for them. Far too many people ignore the birds around them.
Once you have spotted a nest or even a location where a bird seems to be standing guard, observe. Even from a distance you will have a good show. A pair of binoculars helps.
Nesting birds are beautiful and entertaining. We, as writers, should let birds inspire us to write about their antics. We might write stories about a child, a shut-in or someone handicapped who is inspired and entertained by a nesting bird. We might write stories about a hero who secures a nesting area or even rescues a damaged nest or orphaned bird. The real challenge would be to write a story from the point of view of a bird. What must the finch think of the risks of building her nest next to a door through which monsters appear? What must the finch be think as she flees the nest, knowing she must return before the eggs cool down?
I for one will never run out of things to write about.
Flash: My Knight in Shining Armor will be officially released on August 27. Before then, it is available through my website, www.congerbooks.info, at a pre-release discount. Visit http://www.congerbooks.info for information about this, my second book.