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A Birds' Eye View

Posted on 2008.05.15 at 15:00
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
About six weeks ago I had a unique opportunity to observe wildlife up close and personal when a dove built a nest on the top of a column, just under the eaves of our porch, right outside my office window.
The nest is about ten feet away on an upward diagonal from my desk, so I can see her with perfect clarity.  As I sit here and work I can look up and notice what she is doing.  I watched her patiently brood the solitary egg for about three weeks and saw the male dove show up periodically to give her a rest and get a chance to eat.  I didn't see the chick actually hatch but saw the proud parents feeding it on the first day.  It was an ugly scrawny thing with a voracious appetite.  Again, both parents helped to feed it.  I watched the strange convulsive dance that both baby and parent do, as the parent regurgitates whatever bug bits it has partially digested into that perpetually wide open juvenile beak. The baby grew so rapidly I could almost see it happening before my eyes. Within a week, it had become a full-fledged dove.  I watched it sit on the support beam beating its wings preparing to fly.  I named him Hamlet. I have no idea why.

Then came the moment when baby Hamlet decided to go for it.  He flew right off the beam SMACK into the window where I was watching and dropped out of sight.  I cried out, "Oh no!" jumped from my chair and ran outside fearful of finding a dead bird on the porch.  But . . . sigh of relief . . .  he was okay, just a little dazed.  He got up and flew off. 

I thought that was the end of the story, but he returned that evening, so did the parents, maybe for a farewell reunion, and then yes, the next day he was gone and so were they.

I must say I felt a little bereft.  The friendly little presence, the reminder that we are not the only creatures in the world, was gone. 

I thought that was the end of the story.

About three days went by, then mom and dad dove returned and proceeded to copulate in a flurry of wings and vocalizations right by the nest where they had recently said goodbye to baby Hamlet.  They disappeared again for several days.  Then yesterday, mom reappeared and now she is sitting on another egg. 

I had thought of posting something about the birds several times, but didn't for various reasons of distraction, and I realize now that if I had, the story would have been slightly different depending on when I chose to tell it.

It occurred to me that a story takes meaning depending on when we decide it ends.  This one could have ended with the parents dutiful brooding, which would have been bravely expectant, or when they successfully brought baby into the world, which would have been cute and fluffy.  It could have ended with the baby flying into the window, which would have been tragic if it had died, both for me and for it, or a triumph with a bit of humor, since he did in fact survive just fine, just had his first lesson in the school of hard knocks - literally.   Or it might have ended on a slightly sad but that's-the-way-life-is note as the whole family departed on a new adventure and I was left with empty nest syndrome.  But in fact, the story now ends with a new beginning and a reaffirmation of the continuity of life.   It strikes me that this, in microcosm, is like our lives or the lives we write about.  When we write a story, we slice into a little bit of the great continuum and thereby attempt to make meaning out of something that contains all those meanings and more and none. 

The saga continues. . .     



nienna_weeper at 2008-05-16 00:14 (UTC) (Link)
Aw, this is great! I loved reading it...

Spring is all full of animals... Bec and I saw the weirdest spider in the carport today... went online and found out it is one of many species of Jumping Spider. Ours was velvety black with an orange abdomen. Very quick and agile little thing...

And the bats are back! They come out from under the eves on our back porch every dusk and fly off to hunt for dinner.

elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 17:19 (UTC) (Link)
Cool spider. We have a lot of wildlife around our house and I just love watching them all. I'm looking at Mama Dove right now.
andolinn at 2008-05-17 06:37 (UTC) (Link)
I want a bat post!!! Pics? Or are they too fast? Bats are the coolest.
nienna_weeper at 2008-05-17 06:42 (UTC) (Link)
They fall and fly out very quickly at dusk so I doubt I could catch them on film... However, I took some pics of daughter with a little sleeping bat perched outside her school classroom a few weeks ago. Here is the post--- scroll down to see da baby bat!

andolinn at 2008-05-17 06:48 (UTC) (Link)
I did actually see that - that's probably as good a bat pic as you'll get. I just wasn't sure where they roosted etc.
nienna_weeper at 2008-05-17 07:42 (UTC) (Link)
Ours roost under the eaves of our back porch... They roost in trees sometimes too. I know a lot of folks who have bat boxes on their trees. We love 'em out here, unless they get into the attic, LOL.

dalogas at 2008-05-16 01:22 (UTC) (Link)


Dear ES,

Thanks for posting this wonderful story. I'm reading it at a time when I'm struggling with my current situation. Your story reminds me that the story isn't over, that I can wait a bit and find out the next twist. Your words have always been a balm to my troubled spirit.

Hiro hîdh,
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 17:21 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks

Dalo! How amazing that you popped up. I thought you were gone for good. It's good to hear from you, although sorry to hear things are not well. I'm glad this spoke to you.
aglarien1 at 2008-05-16 03:10 (UTC) (Link)
How wonderful they're back! Hope you'll keep us updated.

elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 17:22 (UTC) (Link)
Will do. Hugs back.
andolinn at 2008-05-16 03:54 (UTC) (Link)
Well said. Stories so frequently end with this expectation of 'happily ever after'. Now that the couple have found eachother, gone through the awkward courtship phase and settled down in their little nest, everything will be well...

The other side of that being something Rachel Reman speaks of and that is that we really cannot tell whether an event is 'good' or 'bad' until long after it has happened. And often it is some of both and the most important learning and bonding that we do is in response to difficult situations and not to easy ones.

But it must have been really special to have them as companions and to get to watch the baby grow. Doves will, btw, produce up to 6 young in a season and those are mostly seeds their regurgitating. If that makes you feel better! *grin*
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 17:25 (UTC) (Link)
Very true. You know, I've seen doves around for ever and never really watched them before. I had no idea they would produce more than one egg in a season. Glad to know its seeds and not bugs - whatever it is, baby doves sure think it's delicious. LOL. How do you know so much about doves?
andolinn at 2008-05-17 06:34 (UTC) (Link)
You live in a warm climate, right? They will basically reproduce until it gets too cold, especially if people are feeding them.

They can be really stupid about it though, building nests in planters next to doors and just laying eggs on beams sans nest where they roll off. (We had the latter!) Sounds like yours are experienced parents though.

I have always been animal crazy, have a degree in wildlife biology and just basically observe - the way you have been. Careful observation is the best learning tool!
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-17 06:44 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's been my experience that most doves are pretty stupid. These guys are doing okay though. Mama left today for a while but she's back again. I assume she's sitting on an egg but haven't actually seen it.
andolinn at 2008-05-17 06:51 (UTC) (Link)
Well you know, brain the size of a pea and all that... If they've actually built a nest, it seems to me these two are ahead of the curve.
ennorwen at 2008-05-16 12:49 (UTC) (Link)
This is such a lovely story, E - and well told, as usual. What makes the difference between thee and me though is of course, the last graph. I just wouldn't think of it that way, (or I may think it, but not be able to explain it) and oh, don't I love the people in my life who do. Thank you so much for sharing it and showing me a new way in which to look at things.
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 17:27 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you darling. It's just elfscribe's random musings. LOL. Glad you enjoyed. I'll try to post a pic of the bird, but my camera is crap and my photographer husband refused to take a picture. (He's impossible sometimes.)
keiliss at 2008-05-16 17:25 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks - for sharing the cycle of life and for making me think about beginnings, endings, different angles... fascinating avenue to wander down.

Wish I had something so life-affirming to watch - we usually have a few nests in the trees, but they're both just too far from the house to offer a clear view..
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 17:29 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks m'dear. This has been really interesting. I've never had a chance to watch the complete life cycle of a bird so closely before. I'm just glad Hamlet didn't kill himself. That would have been so depressing after watching him grow all week.
chaotic_binky at 2008-05-17 17:17 (UTC) (Link)
I hope the next one doesn't fly into the window!

We looked after a thrush that we found under a tree and we fed it, digging half the garden up for worms, and taught it to fly. One day it flew and we did not see it again. A couple of months later we heard a squawking outside the back door and there he/she was, but very injured. Looked like a cat had got to it. We took the bird in and it died that night.

It was sad but all living things live and die. If anything it was a lesson for us all that there is a beginning and an end, and the care we take with each other really does make a difference.

Hugs Binky xxxxx
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-19 03:02 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for your thoughts Binky. I think its important for us to have contact with wild creatures. Makes us realize its not all about us.
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