Rural Living

Good Riddance to a Season of Surgeries

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


 Margo Oxendine

Robin family’s lively progress ends in empty-nest syndrome

My Mama Robin was back, in her same nest in the flamingo pink azalea bush, which abuts my screened porch.

I know we’re in the throes of summer, but deadlines demand that I write this on Memorial Day.

I had a most fascinating spring, watching one of nature’s wonders. I’ve written about birds before, but here’s this year’s experience.

My Mama Robin was back, in her same nest in the flamingo pink azalea bush, which abuts my screened porch. This nest could not be in a better position: I can sit at my table reading or eating lunch, with a front-row seat as the delightful drama and comedy unfolds.

The first week of May, I spotted four pale blue eggs in the nest. I was thrilled. They were the first things I gazed at in the morning and, finally, twilight. Mama Robin was a very good rooster. I had to wait until she flitted off for food or a bird bath in the driveway before I crept close to the screen. She did not appreciate being disturbed.

I looked at the eggs early on Mother’s Day morning. That afternoon,

I checked again. And there they were: Four tiny red breasts, the size of pretzel nuggets. Hooray!

I became obsessed. It’s amazing how quickly the nuggets developed into the teensiest, tiniest birdies. Within two days, they had beaks! Almost overnight, they sprouted little birdie feet. They spent their days huddled together in a pile, sleeping. Hatching out of an egg is apparently hard work.

Within a week, wispy little feathers developed.

Mama Robin focused on constant feeding. She’d fly off, grab a worm from under the nearby hydrangea bush, zip back and drop it into one of four gaping little maws. Then, I witnessed an astonishing thing: A second adult began helping out with the feeding! It may have been an auntie. But I think it was Papa Robin, and here’s why: He’d zoom in, toss a bright-green grub into the nest while Mama roosted, and then zip off in a big hurry. Perhaps he was afraid if he stayed any longer, he’d be changing diapers.

The baby birds matured each day. They still slept in a pile in the small nest, but most of the time, they sat there with their mouths opened wide, waiting for food. Mama Robin seemed barely able to keep them fed. Occasionally, she’d take a rest on a nearby branch, keeping the nest in full view.

Here’s something weird I couldn’t comprehend: Mama Robin would drop in a worm or bug, and then, she’d pluck something white from a baby’s maw, and eat it herself. What the heck was that about?

By Day Eight, the nest was getting crowded. The babies developed tiny wings, and then those wings developed white speckles. Whenever I’d spy on them — at least a dozen times a day I’d get real close, looming over the nest — they’d gaze back at me. Or, they’d quickly shut their little eyes and “play possum.”

On Day Eleven, I was sitting on the porch and suddenly, Mama Robin started flitting madly from branch to power line, making a raucous racket. What, I wondered, was the problem? I got up to take a closer look. And there it was: A very fat, long black snake, undulating near the nest! I shouted, “No!” I don’t know if snakes have ears, but he paid no attention. I posted myself at the screen, watching the four babies as closely as their own mother.

What would I do if the snake began coiling toward the bush? Aha! I would bombard it with hornet spray!

Thankfully, the crisis was averted; the snake continued on his way, and Mama Robin returned to the nest.

On Day Twelve, I said good morning to the little birdies, who weren’t so little anymore. When I checked a bit later, the biggest one had flown the coop. I felt sad. By late afternoon, the next largest one was gone.

On Day Thirteen, I said hello to the two remaining birdies and ate my sandwich. By the time I finished, they were both gone. I spotted them in the bushes, gazing around in wonder. The nest was empty, save for a parting gesture: A big glop of bird “doo.”

Later that afternoon, there was a big commotion in the hydrangea bush. It was Mama and Papa Robin. I believe they were up to something that just might result in four more eggs sometime soon. I sure hope so. I’m suffering from empty-nest syndrome.

Spice up your summer reading with Margo’s “A Party of One,” a compilation of columns from the past. Call 540-468-2147 Mon-Thurs, 9-5, or email:




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