Empty Nests

Post Register

June 20, 2013

     It has been almost two weeks since the robins took flight from the nest on my dining room window sill. I had hoped they would still use it for a little while as they transitioned to full independence, but none returned to the nest, not even once. I see young robins around the yard now and wonder if they are “my” robins.

     It is hard not to think of them in a personal way. I witnessed everything from mom building the nest and laying eggs to naked, blind and helpless chicks that transformed just two weeks later into fledglings. Then they took their first flight and were gone.

     To disturb them as little as possible, we avoided the front door and my son taped cardboard over the window so movement inside the house wouldn’t frighten them. Our only acquiescence was a small peep hole cut in the cardboard through which my granddaughters and I sneaked an occasional peek.

     Every bird species has its own nest design and it was clear that these robins understood their specific genetic blueprint. It was an engineering marvel, made of more than 350 strands of twigs and grass woven tightly together. It was then lined with mud carried one tiny beakful at a time and shaped into a perfect cup. The birds worked fast, completing the nest in about three days.

     The female robin is likely already brooding a second clutch of eggs right now in a newly constructed nest. Robins are more likely than most songbirds to re-use an old nest, but after two weeks it was clear she was disgusted with the humans spying on her family and had sought a more secluded site for her second nest.

     Now that the robin kids are teenagers, dad has taken over the task of taking them to complete independence. He teaches them survival basics by day and leads them to a safe roost site at night. Within about two weeks, his tutoring is complete and he immediately begins helping the female raise the second brood.

     It was finally time to clean the window so I removed that nest. I enshrined it in polyurethane and placed it on my desk as a reminder of when a pair of robins adopted our house as the perfect location for their house.  

     And there it sits, an empty nest within an empty nest. In a way, that lady robin is lucky. As soon as one nest empties, she is off to start another. These days, kids and grandkids drop by our nest and adopt us for awhile, but always leave, piercing new holes in our hearts with each departure.   

     Now I understand why my mother, a fastidious woman, would not wash off the tiny hand prints my kids left on her back door glass. Unlike robin nests, human nests are not truly empty when the mortar is made of memories.

It doesn’t take long for naked, helpless nestlings to become fledglings and leave the nest forever. Wise parents will take full advantage of that time