Monday morning David and I arrived at the farm just in time to witness the end of a life and death struggle. A hawk emerged from our porch with a bird in its talons. David caught a flash of blue and the hawk flew low, as if heavily leaden, so we surmised that it was a blue jay. Even though I am an omnivore, I find it unsettling to witness death. Then I began to worry since the Carolina wrens’ nest is also on the porch. We wondered what the jay had been doing? Or was it actually one of the wrens that had been taken? Was the jay after the nest? Blue jays are members of the corvid family, along with crows, those notorious egg steelers and nestling gobblers! The mother wren did not seem to be in the nest. I got increasingly concerned and so took a closer look. The eggs were gone! My heart sank.
But something made me look again, more closely this time, and I noticed the tiniest nestling I had ever seen. But where were the egg shells?! Oh! I forgot; birds are actually pretty smart. They take the shells of the hatched nestlings far away, as a safety measure. I looked again and saw that there were two nestlings. The second was bigger and was definitely alive. But there had been 4 eggs! I was convinced that the blue jay had found the nest and eaten 2 of the nestlings. I was afraid that the nest had been abandoned. Even though we feared the worst, we used the side door and avoided the porch for a few hours to encourage the wrens to come back. Although we heard the male singing over and over as if nothing had changed, we did not see any evidence of wrens frantically feeding their new nestlings.
A knot remained in my stomach throughout the day, although the work of transplanting corn seedlings and onion sets was thoroughly engaging. However, when I wasn’t engaged my mind wanted to find the cause of this little tragedy. Oh, I knew it was just “nature taking its course” but how could I fix it, or keep it from happening again, if I didn’t find the “cause”? Of course it turned out to be human intervention- me in particular. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been feeding the birds! As silly as this sounds there may be a tiny sliver of truth in it- unintended consequences, but that will have to be for another post…
The only upside to all of this was that we could use that part of the porch again and I could start using the little plot of garden right in front of the porch where the nest is located. Fortunately, I wouldn’t be back until Wednesday to take action on that… When I arrived this morning, sure that there were two dead nestlings that I would need to dispose of, sooner rather than later, I was shocked to see a little beaked mouth opening and closing when I peered in the nest! I am in awe of this little being, so much sturdier than I thought possible. Is there more than one? Will this little one make it into adulthood?
All I know is that life is fragile and fraught with danger, AND the will to live is strong!