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The Bird Clock in My Head

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Today, I had to mow the lawn, because it would otherwise be unmowable by the time we get back from the New River Birding and Nature Festival. I got a sudden feeling that I had better check the song sparrow nest down in the backyard, just in case the babies were fledging. I didn't want to mow any young song sparrows. So I walked quietly up to the nest and found it empty--with a twist. The colorful tail of a milk snake was just disappearing down into the grasses. It's on the right rim of the nest. Oh. The narrow fellow in the grass. I wanted badly to haul the snake out by its tail, just to get a look at it, but the slight chance that I was looking at a copperhead's tail made me hesitate long enough for it to vanish into the mystery down below.
Nothing in the scolding of the adult song sparrows told me that tragedy had struck, and from four points in the nearby meadow, I could hear the squeaky chips of the newly fledged young. Perhaps their parents had seen the snake's approach and urged them out of the nest. However it had happened, the snake was too late to make a meal of song sparrow chicks, and my heart lifted.
I keep a clock in my head; I don't write these things down. Somehow I just know when birds are hatching or fledging, when birds are in trouble. Which is why it is pure torture to leave home in May. I think that my subconscious is always listening, keeping track of incubation and nestlng periods. How else to explain what I found in the cardinal's nest only a few minutes later? Oh, beautiful thing.
newly hatched
sings a silent song of hope


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