Saturday, January 18, 2014

The nest outside my window

Over the past few months I have observed, through my office window at home, a small miracle unfolding – not once, but three times.
I look out on a garden that consists mainly of native pseudopanax trees. Early in spring one of these trees was chosen by a Mr and Mrs Thrush – I never got to know their first names – as the perfect site for a nest.

As the nest began to take shape, the birds suddenly realised their proximity to a space inhabited daily by a human (the nest being barely a metre from my window). I could sense them wondering whether it was worth continuing. But they must have decided I looked okay, because they duly completed the nest and produced a clutch of eggs.
I was worried about cats raiding the nest, as has happened here before, so gave nature a helping hand by sprinkling citronella oil on the ground around the base of the tree in the hope that it might serve as a deterrent.

I subsequently enjoyed a box seat as Mr and Mrs Thrush hatched and raised their brood. As they have since repeated this feat twice, I have become familiar with the pattern.
Several things strike me as remarkable. The first is the uncanny, instinctive understanding between the two parents as to how the work is divvied up: who’s going to sit on the nest and who’s going to head off in search of a feed. This was all resolved, at least as far as I could tell, without any marital bickering.

But even more astonishing was the speed with which the eggs hatched and the chicks matured to the point where they were able to fly off. I didn’t keep a log, but the time lapse between the point when I first saw the chicks’ heads jutting above the perimeter of the nest – and always remaining absolutely still when their parents were absent, presumably so as not to attract the attention of predators – seemed to be no longer than a couple of weeks. I can only conclude the worms around here contain  steroids.
I would see the chicks’ beaks outstretched as they waited for Mum and Dad to return from their latest foraging trip. Within days they would be standing unsteadily, flapping their inchoate wings. Then the more adventurous of them would be teetering around the edge of the nest, impatient to fly. I marvelled that none of them fell.

Then one morning I would come into my office, look through the window and see the nest was empty. The birds had flown.
The first time this happened, I thought that was that. But the parents went on to raise two more sets of chicks in the same nest. The last ones took to the wing only a couple of days ago, by which time the nest was looking distinctly ragged and well-used. An accountant would probably say it had been well and truly amortised.

I’ve heard of some bird species producing three lots of chicks in a season, but don’t know whether these particular thrushes were exceptionally fecund.
I just hope magpies don’t decide to try it on too. They’re intolerable enough during the nesting season, dive bombing anyone who comes near (and especially anyone wearing lycra and riding a bike, for whom they reserve special malice). If magpies decided to raise several lots of chicks rather than just one, the mayhem would continue for months.

Anyway, I have observed a marked increase in the number of thrushes in our garden. Presumably the ones I see picking at the fallen plums on our back lawn are the products of the nest outside my window.
I hope they stick around. I like birds (I’ve become particularly attached to a pair of California quail that warily roam around our section each day), but I particularly like thrushes. They’re handsome birds and they have a beautiful song.

I like them a lot more than blackbirds, which are as thick as thieves around our place. Blackbirds sing beautifully too, but they also have a raucous alarm call that irritates the hell out of me. I wish the bloody things would understand that this is my property and that I’m entitled to walk around without them noisily squawking in panic every time I disturb them.
They crap on our back deck, too, even though it’s covered. I’m sure they do it just to piss me off.

1 comment:

Jigsaw said...

Well Mrs Thrush's first name was undoubtably Mavis-check it out. There is a thrush in my garden that is now so used to me that I can be within a few feet and he/she is quite unconcerned. We have conversations- all one way unfortunately and generally me apologizing for having surprised him/her as I come around the corner.