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Published June 23, 2020


The empty nest

By John Toth / The Bulletin

It was time to give the saplings and shrubs in the front of the house a good trim. They started to look like something out of a Tarzan movie.

I got my battery-operated, heavy-duty hedge trimmer, pruning shears, gloves and safety glasses and started working on this overgrown monstrosity.

I pride myself on shaping the shrubs and some saplings with these implements. I usually trim them into a circular shape.

I admired for many years a house along Hwy. 36 (or at least I think that where it was) with all kinds of animal figures shaped out of shrubs. That’s above my paygrade.

Instead of firing up the hedge trimmer, I decided for some reason to use the manual tools at my disposal and started cutting back the branches. It didn’t take long before I discovered a bird’s nest with three little fledglings with their mouths wide open, facing the sky, waiting for mama bird to drop worms into each one of them.

I sure was glad that I didn’t use the power hedge trimmer, like I always do. I don’t know what type of little birds they were. I’m not much of a bird expert. But I knew that they were hungry. I think they were mockingbirds.

Did I cut too much of the tree away before I spotted the nest? It was not hidden as well now. I hoped the mom bird would still come back and feed these little ones, even though I cut away some of their home.

This beautification project was done for now. That part of the house will just have to look jungle-like until the little birds fly from the nest. I moved on to the other side, where the greenery was even worse.
I found two more bird nests there - cardinals (I could even see that). The front of my house has been turned into a bird motel for the spring. I could hear and see that the parents were not too pleased by my presence.

I stopped everything and made one more visit to one of the nests to take a picture. Then I went inside and posted a photo of the fledglings on Facebook.

“You can finish cutting the shrubs back after they grow up and leave the nest,“ wrote a friend. “A house that has bird nests is a lucky house. Lots of good things will happen to you this year.”

I’ll take that. The year has been a little rocky so far.

“Did you hire those birds to make the nests?” asked another friend.

I would have, had I known that they brought good luck. Although I was anxious to get the front of the house in shape, I had to settle for watching movies that afternoon. I didn’t want to disturb the birds anymore, especially if they represent good luck.

I looked closely at the makeup of the nest. It is incredibly well-built from twigs that are interwoven to give it strength. I never paid attention to it before. These birds know how to build a sturdy nest.

“I hope the storms and rain won’t blow it away,” I told my wife, Sharon, since I cut back quite a bit of the branches covering the nest before I saw it.

I went to look a couple of days later after we had some pretty strong storms rolling through. Not a single twig was out of place. The birdies were still there and hungry. The mom flew out of the nest and almost into my face. How rude. Then she perched herself on top of my fence and complained about my presence.

A few days later I checked again, this time making sure that the mom was not in there. The nest was empty. I checked the other nests. Empty. The birds that used to complain because mom could not feed them fast enough were flying above my yard and sitting on the power line leading to the house, chirping.
I hope they said, “thank you for letting us hang out.”

It was a happy and sad scene. Happy, because the fledglings were flying around my house as mom was teaching them the tricks of the trade. Sad because now I had to finish the yardwork.

But I left the nests alone, just in case one of the young birds needs a place to crash.

(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.)