Friday, May 23, 2014

Witness to life

     The cowbirds in our neighborhood have been busy. They are like cuckoos and practice a kind of bird abuse that ought to be punished, in my opinion. I would like to punish them and can’t think why this is part of creation, unless to remind us that life is not always the lovely, sweet place we wish it to be.
Bronze-headed Cowbird


     Last spring I found two cowbird eggs in the nest the purple finches built on our front porch. This year when I checked on the progress of mother finch’s nursery I found three finch eggs and one rouge. You can’t miss the difference. Notice the larger egg is a spotted buff color =  cowbird. The finch eggs are turquoise. The cowbird lays her eggs in another bird’s nest, leaving the responsibility of parenthood to someone else. The problem is, birds being what they are, the parents don’t recognize this egg is not their own and the female hatches and feeds the little criminal as if it were native. This hatchling is always larger than the real offspring and aggressively, starves the other babies and is soon able to push them out of the nest where they die on the ground. That’s why I removed the egg.

Purple Finch nest

Cowbird Egg

   I noticed the fine architecture of the nest - it is so pleasingly and carefully woven with grass, wool, and even flowers are incorporated if they are in bloom. And see how they surrounded the nest with little snippets of cedar? I heard that long ago the remedy for bedbugs was placing cedar boughs under the bed. Bugs and pests don’t like cedar - hence cedar chests that safely store wool blankets and clothing. So I wonder if this helps repel the mites that birds are prone to host. A natural wonder. So interesting to find both wisdom and villainy right on our front porch.
This may be one of the last acts of charity I perform while living at Toad Hall. Our days here are numbered as we pack the house and get ready to move in a week. Saying good-bye to many friends and leaving our home of thirty-three (!) years will be hard. But we look forward to our new place where there may be many more birds who will benefit from my moral compass.  We found a house in a quiet neighborhood in Savage, Minnesota, and the back yard abuts a wooded ravine that drops down to a little stream and a forty-six acre park called “Hidden Valley.”
All I can say right now is everyone was right - that we would find something. This is a gift. A mercy. Grace upon grace. Something my wizened heart does not always expect in this life. I’m more accustomed to expecting difficulties and impostors. I am so thankful.

8 comments:

podso said...

Bonnie told me you had found something. This sounds so very good. What a gift. Rejoicing with you.

Susan said...

Down here in NC, cowbirds do the same thing in bluebird nests.

Happy moving to you. Look forward to seeing posts about your new home.

Susan said...

Down here in NC, cowbirds do the same thing to bluebird nests.

Happy moving to your new home. Look forward to seeing posts.

Margie Haack said...

We do consider this relocation a great gift.
Susan, I didn't know that. The two species must be about the same size to fit through the opening.

Anonymous said...

Margie,
We have cowbirds depositing in Phoebe nests Finch nests, Sparrow nest, and Bluebird nests. If you remove them, they will sometimes come back (they do check up on the nest for a while) and see their egg(s) are gone and destroy the rest. The solution I use is to boil a mug of water in the microwave, then go out to the nest and drop the offending egg(s) into the water for a minute, then take them out and carefully dry and cool it for a bit and replace it in the nest. Take care not to touch or move the good eggs. Good luck in your new birding grounds. Gordy.

Margie Haack said...

Gordie, that is so clever! Will use your method from now on. What raiders, they are. Not unlike my Viking ancestors, I guess.

Judy Kencke said...

Margie, in feeling today a bit wizened at the unrelenting barrage of villainous news, I'm grateful again for your perception and grace: You always seem to strike just what the Holy Spirit wants me to hear. It's been a joy to imagine walking Toad Hall and reflect on your hospitality, and it will be a joy in the new-given home. Blessings

Margie Haack said...

Judy, good words from you. Yes, sometimes the news whether personal or global can take its toll on us. God comfort and keep you through it all. Bless. Margie