by Shadra Bruce

This spring, our family has been privileged to be a special kind of host. On the small ledge above our back door, in the window, a beautiful little bird made a nest. We believe she is some variety of dove, but if you can identify her and let us know, that would be fabulous!

Shortly after making her nest and making herself at home on our back porch, we realized she had laid eggs and was diligently protecting them. She rarely left the nest, and when she did, it was never for very long.

We use our back door (it’s right off our kitchen) all the time, but she was never perturbed by our comings and goings – except for one scolding we received while barbecuing when the smoke came her way.

Over the weeks, our family became more and more eager for the birth of “our” babies. We all were more careful about closing the door without slamming it, about keeping our distance, and generally respecting mama bird’s roost. But every day, we looked up at the nest hoping to discover baby hatchlings.

One evening while cooking dinner, we looked up to see two little baby birdies vying for food from mama bird.

It was a delight to watch the little babies so eager and hungry – and slightly disgusting to watch her feed them. We had a mini vocabulary lesson about the word “regurgitation.”

Mama bird would feed her babies, then swoop them back under her wings where they stayed warm and protected throughout the night. We rarely saw the babies. She was a very protective mom. We were pretty protective, too. Over the next few days, we watched over our little family, worried that one of the babies might fall out of the nest and be targeted by the cats that wander freely through the neighborhood.

Then one morning, we came out and mama bird was gone. The birds had grown so quickly from the tiny little babies clamoring for food to miniature versions of mama bird. First one bird left the next to perch in a tree in our backyard, and then the next day, the other one left. Once the birds were mobile, they came back a few times, and then they were off.

The empty nest made us sad, but it was a pretty extraordinary experience watching the life cycle in action. Each morning, I would look up at the empty nest and realize how fast time flies – for mama birds and for mamas in general. I look at my kids and how much they’ve grown and how independent they’ve all become and realize they’ll soon be flying on. Hopefully, I can swoop them under my wing for a little while longer, but we’re heading steadily toward our own empty nest.

There’s a lesson in all this, you know: grab your babies whatever their size and hold them close every chance you get. Like our mama bird, you’ve nurtured and protected and treasured them, and they’ll fly off – but with any luck, they’ll take all the wonderful things you taught them about love and compassion and caring and pass it on.

Postscript to this story: The other morning, I stepped outside and there was mama bird, back on her roost! It looks as though she’s got more eggs she’s keeping warm. Our whole family is thrilled at this second chance we’re getting to experience nature up close. It is so much fun!