A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I'll Fly Away

Earlier this year swallows started building a nest above a window on the bunkhouse. Not wanting them there, I hung a piece of shade netting up. This stopped them but they called my bluff and raised me one. They moved to the cabin front porch. I threw in my hand and took the shade net off the bunkhouse so they could move back there. I cut some strips of shade netting about a foot wide and hung it all around the cabin porch. We have some screws along the top there where we hang the Christmas lights so it was easy to just push the netting on. At this point the swallows lost interest in the game and moved on.

A female Scott's Oriole, however, found the netting irresistible! She began weaving a nest in an outside corner, using the netting as her base. I relinquished the porch to her for the duration. Soon she was sitting on eggs and not long afterwards I saw the first tiny beak appear above the edge of the nest.

Both the female and the male Orioles feed their babies while they are in the nest and for a couple of weeks after they fledge. 

There were two babies in the nest but a few days ago I noticed a third tiny head appear. The one born later, the last egg to hatch. 

Yesterday the firstborn stood on the edge of the nest. The immature males and the females look very similar so I'm not sure if these are males or females but I've been calling them all "him", so I'll continue, although I think the two oldest are probably female. He looked very proud and curious standing there, as if to say "I'll be joining you soon, world, so get ready for me! Oh, the places I'll see!"

I've watched them all morning and early afternoon. I started shooting video when I suspected the oldest one might be getting ready to make his move. I walked away for about 15 minutes and I heard some distressful chattering so I went to check. The middle child was crying out because the firstborn had left! As if to say "wait for me, I wasn't ready!"

He fretted and called out for a while then he hopped out of the nest onto the shade netting. Gradually he made his way about a third of the way around the porch. A few times the parents came in to feed him and his younger sibling. 

He almost fell off a couple of times. Not quite ready to let go of his safety net, he flapped his wings and held on, reminding me of when I was a kid learning to swim and didn't want to let go of the side of the pool. Eventually he made the leap! He flew straight to a window screen, held there for a couple of minutes, then took off! It got awful quiet on the porch.

A little bit later I heard the craziest racket outside so I went to go see what everyone was in an uproar about. A squirrel, some titmouses, the Oriole parents, a Scrub Jay, and some cowbirds were all squawking at the top of their lungs, flying in and out toward the cenizo bushes. I went over and they all moved back and got quiet. At least one of the baby birds was in the cenizo.

I wanted to scoop him up and take him back to the nest. Squirrels and jays sometimes kill baby birds. He needed a few more days in the nest. He's so small and the world is so big.

I've watched the little family's progress for weeks and I've got a lot invested in them. How does something so fragile survive in such a big and scary world.

But I don't take him. And I can't kill all the things that might do him harm. I back away and leave him where he is. I have to trust the system even though it fails as often as not. 

It's been several hours now since the two orioles flew off into the world. I went out and checked a couple of times and I don't see any sign of them or their parents. I hope they are safe. I hope the parents don't desert the last baby in trying to keep the older two safe. 

There needs to be a halfway house for baby birds!

Here's a little video of the firstborn. 

The Firstborn and Dad just before he left

"A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange sun's rays
and dares to claim the sky."
Maya Angelou 


  1. We used to get baby Robins and we'd just leave them and sure enough, the mom would be close by. Now with the cat we don't see many baby birds around. We do get to see her running for her life when the Mocking Birds run her back into the house.

    1. Those mockingbirds are fierce, for sure! No fear.