I heard a sound. Looking up, I saw it. A nest. Perched on top of the climbing plants on the side of the bungalow. I hadn’t noticed it before. The plant had been completely overgrown until yesterday when the gardener had clipped it right back to the wall. The greenery now stark and unyielding, the nest perched atop, unharmed, but unprotected from the elements, which in the UK cannot be pleasant for the poor young family. To give him credit, he didn’t disturb the nest, that subsequent conversations revealed, he had considered empty.
The mother turned on the nest as I heard another rustling. Then, the flutter of wings as Daddy bird swooped down to land on the lip of the nest, gripping tightly with his claws. The obsidian majesty of the male was in contrast to the rather muted brown of the mother bird. They were however a perfect complement. A perfect partnership. This was apparent, even from the very limited amount of time I spent as part of their family.
I have been, and shall continue to refer to them as blackbirds, however, my ornithological knowledge leaves a lot to be desired, and so am open to correction on this matter. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference to the story. In fact you can even decide for yourself what species they are. I will tell you though that they are not, dodo’s, emu’s, or storks.
The nest was a perfect bowl shape. An incredible achievement of mechanical engineering, constructed from a variety of organic materials, the occupants living as one with nature and their surroundings. Part of nature. How could they not be. I had no idea whether there were young in the nest that mummy was feeding, or un-hatched eggs that she was turning and keeping warm. Or indeed if it was empty of young.
I had, on previous days, see the father collecting twigs and building materials. He would alight on the edge of the pergola and eye me quizzically. His bright amber eye keeping close watch on my movements as I shuffled around the decking, trying not to disturb him. Then he would take to the air and I would lose sight of him. He was obviously reluctant to reveal the location of the nest at first, or at least until the ability to hide it was taken from him.
I sat for a while and watched the male in his resplendent glory returning to feed his beloved wife. He landed on the edge of the small nest. No room for him inside. Perching, in a manner that to me seemed particularly precarious, on the edge he leaned in and transferred the bounteous treat he had collected for his love to her gaping maw. The process was both practical and loving. He almost appeared to kiss her in the process, lingering just a little longer than really necessary, to enjoy the contact of beak on beak, bill on bill(?), before he was off again, to search for more tasty treats for his eternal partner in life.
Over the course of the next couple of days I continued to observe their behaviour and characteristics. Their habits. It has been a fascinating pastime.
I initially suspected that the nest was empty of young, however upon further observance I noticed two young fledglings hunkered down in the nest, their occasional outstretched beaks reaching for the food proffered by their doting parents. I was looking forward to watching the development of the children and their first forays from the nest, as they are taught to fly, and enter the world at large.
Standing outside I saw that the nest was unguarded, then from nowhere, at the approach of a human, daddy swooped down to the nest and sits atop the chicks. Then mummy returned, plumper and more brown than daddy, with another worm for the babies and then took his place, settling herself down protectively on the young in the nest.
As time went on, it so came to pass, that oftentimes mummy and daddy were both occupied searching for food. During such periods I flatter myself that they trustingly left me on guard duty and that they respected and acknowledged my protection of their young.
The little babies, that I christened Wilbur and Orville, kept standing in the nest and turning, preening. Their little heads turned, their beaks poking their newly acquired feathers. They looked to be getting ready to leave the nest soon.
The next morning I thought that the twins were going to launch themselves clear out of the nest. They are getting big now and seem to fill the nest, almost to the point of overflowing. Orville kept stretching out, puffing up his chest and examining his feathers. Daddy and mummy were off getting breakfast. I was sure that there could be little room for them in the nest now, although they seemed to just plonk themselves down on top of the kids when they want to be in the nest.
Daddy came back with a big wriggly worm in his bright orange beak, and sat on the pergola watching the nest, and probably me, remembering his promise to let me take part in the flying lessons. I believe that he may have been regretting his decision at that point.