A few years ago, some House Finches made a nest in a hanging basket of Impatiens I had, hanging right outside our kitchen window. They took turns for what seemed like weeks, sitting on the nest. When the babies were born, they both tended to them. Each going off, bringing back food for them. There were five babies. The girls loved standing on their small wood chairs to get a peek at the small beaks of the babies pointing toward the sky, crying to be fed. I loved knowing they were there at night, all sleeping quietly, together. Even when we came and went each day, we were careful not to freak out the parents.
Every day, I fed my flowers. I watered all of the potted ones, and my beloved peony. The baskets were last, and I was careful to mist the basket with the babies. I didn't want the Impatiens to die, and expose the nest to the Hawk that lived high above our house. We heard him everyday. His screech was loud. You knew when he had taken a baby out of a nest. You could hear the mother and father birds cry. I watched them chase down the Hawk trying in vein to rescue their baby. After a while, they would give up. But the mother bird would continue to shriek, for just a while longer, and it always made me so sad for her.
One afternoon, after watering all of my flowers, I turned to the little House Finch nest, and moved close to it. I raised the hose, and gently squeezed the nozzle. I forgot to put it on mist. A blast of water shot out, and five little lumps flew out of the nest. They all hit the deck, and scattered like droplets. I panicked. I ran into the house, feeling that I had just killed the entire family. I felt like I was going to throw up. I ran into the bedroom, where David was, and I couldn't even get the words out to him. His eyes widened. We both ran back out, and he started looking around for them. I was crying. And then I heard him. The Hawk. Oh my God, the Hawk sees them, I thought.
David shouted to me to get the girls away from the window. He didn't want them to see National Geographic, happening right here in our front yard. I hustled them into the back of the house. David came in, and said that it's over. They can't be touched now. Now nature must take it's course. I started to really cry now, cursing myself for watering the flowers. I told David to call our friend, Anita. She is an expert on everything in the natural world. He quickly dialed the phone. She instructed him to quickly find the babies, and put them back into their nests. She said that it was an old wives tale that once a baby bird is touched by humans, the parents will abandon them.
We went back outside. We stopped speaking, and quietly started looking around. There was one. Hiding behind an Adirondack chair. David moved in slowly, and cupped his hands around it. It was the cutest little ball of down. He carefully placed it back in it's nest. We continued to search. There was another, and still another. They tried to run, but David scooped them up. By now, the Hawks screams were louder, and closer. Time was ticking. We could hear the mother and father bird in the distance. They were angry. David scooped up the fourth, and placed it back in the nest. By now, the girls curiosity had gotten the best of them, and there they were, at the front door. I let them come out.
Where is the fifth? We looked everywhere. Even the girls were turning over stones. I saw some pine needles on the ground flutter. Out by the street. There was number five, I screamed. David ran toward it, and it really put up a fight. He finally grabbed it, and rushed over toward the girls. He slowly uncoupled his hands, and there was the beautiful little baby bird. It's eyes were small, dark, glistening stones and it was breathing so quickly. You could see it's beating heart. We all cried, as David put the baby back in it's nest, with all the other's. The girls shouted and cheered. We all did.
We went inside, and felt relief, and worry. We all started to worry that the parent's would not return. We took turns standing guard by the kitchen window, waiting for their return. The Hawk was still out there. I could hear him. I was scared he was going to swoop in to the vulnerable nest. He didn't stop screaming. We could no longer hear the mother and father bird's anxious cries.
And then, they quietly appeared. They fed their babies. All, safely back in their nest. I went to sleep that night, relieved, and horrified at what I had done. The girls went to sleep thinking Dad was their hero. David went to sleep and told me he would take care of the watering from now on.
I got out of bed, and looked out into the darkness outside of my kitchen window, and focused my eyes on where I knew the nest was. They were all safe and sound. They were probably worried about the constant presence of that Hawk. He was always out there. A constant threat. But they were together.
Always aware of danger. But safe in their warmth.