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Our 27th year of publishing

Published April 6, 2021

Our birds are back, getting nests ready

By John Toth / The Bulletin

Mockingbirds have been checking out our house for possible nest locations, and at least one has decided to move into a nest left over from last year.

Spring 2020 was a good year for birds around the Toth house. We spotted three mockingbird nests and a cardinal nest around the house. The fledglings grew up, learned to fly and left.

One cardinal is back and sings from a top tree branch daily, sometimes most of the day. His red chest glistens in the sun. I’m not much of a birding expert, but I think he is calling for a mate.

The other day, a female cardinal showed up looking for him, but he had been gone for a couple of days. I was getting worried because for months his singing has been like clockwork.

Then I heard him from a distance, and the female took off in that direction.

I hope they come back to nest. Last year's nest is still there, built about 6 feet above ground in a bushy, leafy tree by the front side of the house. But a few things have changed.

I used to have a big, old chinaberry tree in the front yard, which made it convenient for the fledglings to learn to fly. They took short trips from the nest to the tree. But last year the tree got sick and had to be cut down. The birds now have no landing place.

I saw them perched on my rooftop, trying to figure out why the tree was gone. I was hoping to save it, but it was dying, and I didn’t want my garage roof to take a direct hit during a storm.

“I hear your complaints,” I told the birds while I walked the dogs in the morning. But I don't think they heard me.

The cardinal wasn’t complaining. He was singing happily, calling for a mate, even in the rain. He disappeared for a few days during the freeze, but even before the temperature rose above freezing, he was back on a top branch of our backyard tree, singing as happily as if it had turned warm.

Birds must not get as cold as humans under such conditions. I hurried back to the heated house.

I was surprised to see a mockingbird preparing to move into one of the nests left over from last year. Back then, the tree was more bushy, and it was hard to see that little fledglings were waiting for mom to return and feed them.

I found them when I tried to trim the tree and was met by those empty beaks wide open, waiting for worms. Mom wasn’t going to go near the nest when I was there, so I left. The nests gave me a good reason to skip yard work in those areas.

Another complication this year may be that the squirrels have been busy over the winter, and we have a larger-than-usual baby squirrel population around the house. One of the young ones was already checking out the mockingbird nest, but only for a second. Mom mockingbird chased it away with the help of several others that she called in to help.

Being outnumbered and outgunned, the squirrel ran for its life. It was a fat one, too. My wife is feeding them too well.

The squirrel must not have read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or it would have known that it is a sin.

The quotation about the book's title appears in Chapter 10:

"'Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

'Your father's right,' she said. 'Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Or a cardinal. Hear that squirrel? Hands off. Eat some of the nuts we left for you on the fence.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)