Easter Sunday, I arrived at my parents’ house and in front of the kitchen door was a handwritten sign. The sign read, “Please enter through garage or front door.” We used the garage door. After the standard greetings were finished, I asked about the sign. My father said, “There is a nesting bird in the wreath next to the door.
“Are there eggs in the nest?” I asked.
“Yes, four or five. And every time we walk out of the house she leaves the nest. So we are trying to minimize the traffic,” my dad said.
We spent the rest of the day watching the nest and the bird from a lookout station in the dining room. We had a mission: identify the bird. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds site was our resource of choice. “What color would you say the bird is?” my father asked. “Tan, gray, brown?” Do you think it’s a sparrow?”
“This bird doesn’t look stout enough to be sparrow,” I answered. The bird’s coloring was unfamiliar to me. She was a mottled taupe color. But her body shape and body movement looked familiar. I was stumped.
Just as we were leaving we spotted a pair of birds in a tree near the nest. The purple-red head of the male bird was very familiar to me. The mystery was solved, I knew what kind of bird was nesting in my parents’ wreath. A house finch.
While the birds are building nests, laying eggs, and raising babies, another spring activity is happening in our yard. The boat is being cleaned, painted and readied for water. While Dave and the kids were working on the boat recently, they found a nest. A mother bird had built a nest on a shelf inside the cabin of the boat. Dave’s first thought was to move the nest, but then he saw eggs and knew he needed to let the bird hatch her eggs and fledge her young. “It won’t take that long—a couple of weeks,” he told Stephen and Aurora. They came running into the house to report the findings and take me to see the nest. They also wanted to know my thoughts about moving nests. I said the nest should stay.
I have thought a lot about our recent bird encounters and the way we all reacted to the unexpected presence of wildlife into our lives. All of us—my parents, me, Dave, Stephen, and Aurora—all wanted to protect the birds and their eggs. We know that a cycle of life is taking place—that there is a certain rhythm and course of events that will take place: birds build nests, lay eggs, sit on the eggs to keep them warm, the eggs hatch, the mothers and fathers feed and nurture the hatchlings, and finally the parents teach their babies to fly. My family is tapped into the natural world—we see it, wonder at it, and respect it.
Is it a coincidence that we all reacted to these birds in a similar way? I don’t think so. I think back to all the times my parents connected us with the natural world: talks about animals, hikes in the woods, sailing the seas, close investigations of tidal pools, the list goes on and on. I watched them be in nature and relate to nature, and by example they taught me. As a parent, it is now my turn to teach my children to love and respect the natural world. It is a guiding force that runs constant in my life. As I watch Stephen and Aurora run off to the vernal pool to check for frog eggs, climb a tree, play in the stream, or plant Swiss chard in the garden, I feel I am meeting one of my parental responsibilities. Stewards, gardeners, nature enthusiasts, planet protectors, wildlife warriors are nurtured and educated by the adults in their lives. Think about the children in your life and plan an activity in nature today.
To read more about house finch or any other bird visit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology -All About Birds
Raising a Young Conservationist by Jensen Montambault