Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Mockingbird Tale

This is papa mockingbird, our very visible neighbor. He has been chasing other mockingbirds (all except his timid partner), starlings, blue jays and robins away from our ivy wall and backyard for months. We believe he regards our house and garden as his, but he tolerates us when we come out to tend our garden or feed the compost. He likes to find the highest perch around--the top of our satellite dish, the fencepost on our back wall, the top of the telephone pole in front--and cycle through his vast repertoire of songs. But his behavior changed about a month ago, when he began valiantly protecting his nest in our neighbor Henry's magnolia tree. He started hanging around the tree all the time, or within about 20 feet of it, swooping from the roof, to the back wall, to the neighbor's fence, and issuing sharp chirps, either as a warning not to get too close or a warning to his partner that potential danger was near. This tree is right up against our fence, so we were intimately aware of the mockingbird's comings and goings while building the nest, but the foliage is thick enough that we have never seen it and have not wanted to poke around too closely for fear of disturbing it. About a week ago we realized that we were hearing faint peeps from the nest, and papa's stern chirps grew more frequent. A couple of times we saw him chasing off other mockingbirds and once a crow. This was a vulnerable time for the baby bird. Then yesterday, papa's chirping and swooping raised to a fever pitch, and I heard plaintive peeps throughout the day. Even I was getting a little tired of his protective fussing and helicopter parenting. How long could this go on? But today, he's gone. There are no harsh chirps nor little peeps coming from the tree. This afternoon I went over and peered up into the tree and saw the nest, but there no signs of life. We think maybe one of those predator birds got the baby bird. Why else would they all disappear overnight? It's sad. I guess if we were so aware of the nest, others were, too.

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