Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Praise for a baby robin

Taking a break from birding in Bulgaria for the moment, I am distracted by a drama that is happening in my own backyard.

Prior to my departure for Bulgaria, I noted that a robin was nesting in my pagoda dogwood tree.  On the hottest day of the summer she sat on the nest with her beak open disipating the heat.  Occasionally, she would leave the nest to drink from the bird bath that I was keeping with daily fresh water.

I arranged for Julie Craves to take care of my cats while I was away.  I showed Julie the robin's nest and asked her to keep the bird bath water fresh.

When I returned home Saturday night I received an email from Julie saying that the baby robins had hatched.  But then on Sunday an adult robin was standing in the dogwood near the nest or on the utility wires overhead giving its mournful seep notes for a large part of the day.  On Monday morning, having taken an extra day off to recover from my trip, I awoke to robins singing.  Later in the morning, I was pulling weeds and noticed a fuzzy head move in the nest.  No adult birds were around.

I recalled all of the advice that is inevitably discussed on the birding listserves when someone finds a baby bird.  That is, the parent birds are indeed caring for the hatchling.  And, in this case, the little bird was being cared for.  Shortly after I observed feeding going on.

On Tuesday, I came home from work and checked on the nest.  It was not in the tree.  There had been a storm earlier in the morning.  I heard a baby bird call note and saw the baby robin in the baking sun on the edge of the sidewalk alongside the grass.  Both parents were on the utility wire overhead.  I have no idea how long it may have been out of the nest and in the hot son.  I found the nest on the ground under the tree.  I put the nest upright on the ground at the base of the tree and put the little bird back in the nest in the shade.  Both parents were calling their alarm clucks.

Later I sent an email to Julie Craves to tell her what had happened and what I had done.  As I was getting ready for bed I checked my email one last time and saw a reply from Julie.

"Don't leave the nest on the ground.  Put it back up in the tree with something ... !"

Of course, what was I thinking?  So at 10:00 pm I was outside in the dark tying the nest on to a low limb with some old shoelaces. Unfortunately, in the dark, I could only find a limb about two feet off the ground.  Would this actually be better?  To make matters worse it rained during the night.

This morning I checked on the bird.  I even made myself a little late for work while I took this 39 second video.  The parents are chirping in the background scolding my activities.

The baby robin was curled up in the nest with its tiny body heaving slightly from its respirations and heart beat.  

When I returned home from work this afternoon everything was still status quo.  So far so good with at least one parent nearby.  I've also seen the other parent. 

Now, even as I write this, it's raining hard again.  The nest must be sodden by now.

I've just come back from checking on the nest and the above photo is what I found.  I'll allow myself a little anthropomorphism - robins really are good parents.  If you enlarge the image you will see droplets of water on the adult bird's feathers.

A second downpour just ended and I've checked the nest a second time. Parent is chirping from the utility wire.

The baby robin is a little out of focus because it was moving as I took the photo.  Earlier I had given consideration to getting a ladder and trying to place the nest higher up in the tree.  I've decided to leave the nest where it is and keep my fingers crossed that all will be okay.  I have to work tonight and won't be home to check on it until tomorrow evening.

Thursday evening - have arrived home from work to find the hatchling in its nest.  It may be my imagination, but I think it's getting bigger.

With parent on the utility wire overhead, the nestling was peeking out of the nest at me.  

On Friday morning, before going to work the little bird in the photo below is what I found.  Definitely bigger.

Upon arrival home from work Friday evening, June 24th, the nestling became a fledgling.  Neither parents or baby were in sight. But later in the evening I heard robins in my front yard and saw one carrying food.
The other was hunting food in my next door neighbor's yard.  I think this is a good sign and I hope it's grown enough to make it.  In the photo above, I think it appears to be about the same size as the baby robin I photographed in my neighborhood in April, 2010.

But then, baby robins are tough little creatures.

June 28th update:

I was working on my computer at the table on my back patio when I heard squeaky seep or seet notes of a young robin.  After looking around a little I finally found a fledgling robin in my large maple tree.  I would be very surprised if this is not the nestling that seems to have made it as a fledging.

The bird is on a high perch and it was windy so I had difficulty getting the bird in focus.  Almost certainly, given the location of the nest, the location of where I observed the adult robin carrying food last Friday and now the location of where this bird is perched, this must be the same fledgling robin.

A great outcome that makes me happy.


Anonymous said...

very good engineering work with the lace!

I think you should go to the next level and start looking after baltimore orioles nests now.....


yoav said...

Cathy - throughout the trip I saw how you cared for the local animals, collection of leftovers and so-on: A kind heart and wonderful soul always brings happiness upon success - as with the success of helping the Robin family.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy, Good to have you back in Dearborn taking care of our birds. And glad your trip was such a success. Happy and proud of you.
Love, Aunt Doramae & Uncle Bill xoxo