Monday, May 12, 2008

Nesting in the Fuchsia

I got a frantic call from one of my neighbors this morning. “Carolyn,” she said, “I think I’ve done something awful! It’s a bird’s nest. Can you come over?” I grabbed my coffee (I knew I would need it) and my camera (just in case) and walked over to her house. When I got there, my neighbor was almost teary-eyed, standing next to a hanging fuchsia basket, now on the porch. Inside the basket was a bird’s nest containing two eggs.

Oh, I touched it,” she lamented. “Now the mother bird won’t come back. I feel just awful. It wasn’t there Friday and we were gone over the weekend. What kind of bird do you think it might be?”

I don’t mind if she broke some of the branches. I don’t even care that I can’t water the plant and will lose it. I’m just so afraid the bird won’t come back.”

It seemed clear to me, based on the composition of the nest that the bird in question was a Robin. The two robin’s-egg-blue eggs were a dead give-a-way. The Robin had broken some of the branches to allow more room for her nest.
Should I just throw away the nest and eggs? Surely the bird won’t come back since I already gave it a human scent. Are you sure it’s all right for me to hold the basket while you take the picture?”
I explained to my neighbor that the “human scent” story is a myth, and that the Robin didn’t care at all that we had touched the nest. I showed her how to carefully water the fuchsia and suggested that we hang it back up. She could keep her plant as well as the nest.
My neighbor signed with relief. She thanked me and remarked how nice it was to have a “bird expert” living in the neighborhood. Oh yeah, a bird expert. However, I couldn’t be condescending and suggest that almost anyone should be able to recognize a robin’s nest, especially one with eggs in it. I shrugged it off with, “Well, I wouldn’t call myself an expert. But I’m glad I could be of some help.”

For the record: I am not a bird expert. I love birds and I love identifying them when I can. But, you know what? I don’t become upset if I can’t identify a bird even after looking it up. I don't feel the need to differentiate every little warbler. I can be completely happy calling a bird a summer warbler or a fall warbler, depending on the season. That would be intolerable for a real bird expert.

When I came back home, I told my husband I was now the official neighborhood expert on birds. He laughed. “Well, it really doesn’t matter much. Not being an expert has never in your life inhibited you from sharing an opinion.” Ah, the man knows me too well.


Unknown said...

Ah sounds like a wonderful man. ;)
You will have to let us know how the robin's nest goes. Wonderful photos and story.

Jayne said...

LOLOL.... love your husband's honesty! Isn't it funny how when people find you love the birds, all of a sudden you are the "expert?" I am glad you could help her and allay her fear that she caused a Robin to leave her nest. :c)

Rurality said...

I've run across several bird experts who are willing to admit that sometimes you just can't tell what bird it is, unless it's in your hand. To me, those are the best ones to learn from!

Anonymous said...

That is a great little everyday story. I love to read them. It helps me understand human behavior better. You did dispell the myth for me too.

Ruth said...

So many people have no idea what the most common birds are. You are is better to be able to enjoy nature than to be stressed about the ID of every little thing.

NCmountainwoman said...

Toni - Yep, he's a keeper. My neighbor is keeping me posted (the Robin returned to the nest) and I'll give an update later.
Jayne - It is surprising how quickly one can be elevated to expert.
Rurality - I agree wholeheartedly.
For the people - Thanks for dropping by.
Ruth - You are so right! Another neighbor called me to ask what kind of bird she saw. She whistled the two-note Cardinal call and when I told her it was probably a Cardinal, she said, "Well it looked a lot like a Cardinal, but it wasn't a bright red...sort of brownish." She was amazed to learn that females are not bright red.