Pride Visions

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Blessing of New Life

     A wonderful blessing was bestowed upon me recently.  A pair of Mocking birds chose to build their nest in a grape vine I have enveloping a patio adjacent to the garage.   The gifts of seeing new life begin and survive along with the wonderful interaction of a couple who sacrificed everything, and I do mean everything to ensure the survival of their brood.  I found myself getting more and more involved with my babies till my every thought was of them and their survival.  My emotional involvement was straddling obsessive attachment as my babies took their first breath until they completely fledged.
     The first Blessing was when Johnny and Shelia, the names I gave them, chose to place their nest in the grape vine.  Normally Mockingbirds place their nest in high positions in my yard.  This was the first time a pair chose to establish their nest so close to me.  I remember the first time a couple chose my yard to have a nest.  Even though it was in an evergreen about fifteen feet in the tree, the couple would attack me anytime I came around the evergreen.  Over the years I guess they figured out that I was not a threat to them or their babies.  This year to my surprise the nest was only six feet above the ground at my eye level in the grape vine.  
     The moment I saw Johnny preparing to build his nest I started to think of capturing the event from the beginning to the final fledging.  My selfish intrusion came to an end once I realized Johnny had done it.  I suddenly began to think of their desires rather than my intrusive peeking into their precious endowment.  I first realized Johnny achieved his goal when I saw him consistently swooping into the grape vine.  That is when I was introduced to Shelia.  Johnny was bringing his first lady meals as she sat on the brood incubating the future mockingbirds.  I chose to leave Shelia alone as she did her job.
     I could have disturbed Shelia from the nest so I could take photos of the eggs.  Mockingbird eggs are smooth and oval, about 18 mm x 24 mm (.75 in. x 1 in.). They can be bluish gray or greenish white to darker shades of blue and green, and heavily marked with spots, blotches and short scrawls in various shades of brown.  I missed seeing the eggs because I did not want to intrude on Shelia as she sat on the nest.  Johnny would go back and forth to the nest to bring his Shelia nourishment and she would stay put on the nest.  With Mockingbirds, the female birds incubate the eggs for 12-13 days, while the male forages for food and defend the territory from intruders.
     The wonderful day arrived and while Johnny and Shelia were going back and forth for food to feed our babies I would sneak in and capture photos and video of my babies.  There were four lovely babies in the nest with their eyes still closed and moving around as if crowded by the smallness of the nest.  My first thought was that Johnny was a bit mistaken by designing his abode too small.  Thinking like a human, I guess I was wrong, Johnny knew what he was doing.  I enjoyed visiting my babies every day as they were cared for by Johnny and Shelia.  The two of them were fling their wings off to feed those demanding ravishing bundles.      
     The Mockingbird feeds on fruits and berries of holly, smilax, woodbine, sumac and other plants.  Northern mockingbirds eat insects, snails, fruit, berries, worms and lizards. They like to forage on short grass and are thus commonly seen feeding on suburban mowed lawns.  Some garden and horticultural crops such as grapes, blackberries, and figs are also favorites of this bird.  In addition to fruits, this bird also eats harmful weevils, cucumber beetles, chinch bugs, and grasshoppers.  So while many think this bird is detrimental to fruit crops, the truth is, it is an important bird in an agricultural sense.
     Once their eyes were open, the babies began to scream constantly demanding their food.  Mouths wide open as if great white sharks, two of the babies seemed to be more outgoing and demanding than their other two siblings.  I got tired watching Johnny and Shelia go back and forth, back and forth, to their screeching demanding brood.  There was a parent returning to the nest about every three minuets for hours on end.  Johnny and Shelia seem to only have two brakes in the day.  Mid-day and after sundown were the only times I didn’t see them rushing in to feed the babies.  
     Three weeks into my joy came a devastating occurrence.  One day I noticed that only Shelia was feeding the babies and Johnny was nowhere to be seen.  Shelia was working overtime to feed the constant screeching littleness.  Later, about mid-day I heard Shelia making her distress call.  I ran out to see what the concern was.  In time you learn the different calls of the Mockingbird to almost know what they are saying.  Across from me in a tall palm tree was a Red-Tail Hawk.  The Red-tail’s are my favorite birds in my backyard habitat but this time I wasn’t happy to see one.  Shelia was distress calling and hiding at the same time.  Normally the Mockingbird attacks anything that may threaten them and this time Shelia was being careful.  This made we wonder it the Red-Tail was the reason I didn’t see Johnny.
     While watching the Red-Tail and protecting what was left of my family I saw him for the first time make a kill of a bird that made a mistake of attacking and flying down below the hawk.  The many times I have watched and photographed the Red-Tails I had not seen a kill.  I am thinking that the hawks also had a brood somewhere to feed.  I think, though I don’t know for sure, Johnny was a victim of the Hawks.  I felt a great loss when I realized Johnny was gone.  I later saw the Red-Tail make another kill and again Shelia made a distress call but in hiding as if she knew that if she were lost to the hawks, her babies would not survive.
     The next few days resulted in Shelia working double duty to care for her brood.  I began to notice that two babies were always at the top of the nest and even coming out to walk along the grape vine while the other two were reserved.  Within a week of my noticing Johnny was missing, two of my babies past away.  Again, thinking  like a human, my guess it that Shelia couldn’t keep up the pace to feed four babies and the stronger of the brood as well as the more demanding got fed.  Down to two babies Shelia was able to keep them fed.
     Once the two remaining babies began to fledge, Shelia would take them off away form the yard to feed.  Often times they would spend the night away from home.  Yes I said away from home.  When Shelia first did this I began to feel slighted as if Shelia was steeling my babies from me.  Thinking like a human again, I had to realize that Shelia was being a good mother and teaching her babies well.  Shelia seemed to understand my attachment to her and her family that she soon made my yard home and would always come back to me at night no matter if they were gone all day.
     Shelia and her, or should I say our, two babies are still staying home for now and I enjoy seeing them each day.  I know the day will come when little Johnny and his sister will find their own territory but until that day I enjoy having them in the yard.  This was an experience of a lifetime to experience the blessing of birth and growth of new life.


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