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Published July 27, 2021

Learning to fly in rainstorm is not that easy

By John Toth / The Bulletin

They were buzzing everything in sight, protecting the nest. It’s well-hidden in my backyard, or the neighbor’s - somewhere.

These mockingbirds may have been born on the other side of the house last year, when I found three mockingbird nests and a cardinal nest in the trees by the front of the house.That gave me an excuse not to trim them for a while.

They set up home at the back of the house this year. The nests up front were too vulnerable to squirrels, who were also born last year and were exploring their options.

Mockingbirds must be pretty good at seeing that trouble is coming. We had no clue that there was at least one nest nearby. They hid it well.

Then the buzzing started. The cats and squirrels follow the rules set by the adult mockingbirds, which were monitoring their actions closely.

I still could not find the nest. It was either in the crepe myrtle trees on our property or in a tree in the neighbor’s yard. Either way, the eggs were well protected.

And then they hatched. And then it started to rain.

Two fledgelings tried to fly and landed in the backyard. The rain was coming down steadily. Even under dry conditions, these little things would have a hard time getting back up to a safe level.

The fledgelings were getting soaked. The little ones were stuck on the ground.

Sharon, my wife, called the Gulf Coast Wildlife Rescue, a volunteer organization that we relied on before when a possum fell sick in our backyard.

A volunteer gave us instructions on what to do. We took a plastic container, made holes in the bottom, put some leaves in it and fastened it to one of the crepe myrtles, as we were instructed. Then we rounded up the drenched little birds and placed them in the makeshift nest.

They still needed help, but they were safe. We held our hands over them in the nest briefly as instructed so they could not jump back out. Once they seemed relaxed, we uncovered them. It looked like they were exhausted and welcomed their new home.

Then we worried that the parents would not find them and would just leave. The volunteer on the phone said the fledgelings would cry out to their parents from their new location. But they weren’t, probably because they were asleep.

We kept our three young cats inside until we were sure that the fledgelings were alright and safe. They didn’t like it, but they are indoor cats anyway, and we let them play in the backyard only when we’re out there with them.

The volunteer reassured us that the squirrels wouldn’t be a threat to the fledgelings at their size and stage of life. I still put out extra food for the squirrels, just to make sure they had a full stomach. We’re amateurs when it comes to backyard wildlife, but we try to do our best to accommodate them.

Later that day, one of the two young birds was gone from our makeshift nest. The rain eased off. We looked for it, but no luck. The other one was perched on a branch near the nest. We left the back porch light on that night to give the birds some light.

On the next day, one of the fledgelings was back on the grass, and the parents were guarding the area again. The cats remained inside for another day. The parents were feeding the fledgeling on the ground.
That night, Sharon called me to the window. One of the fledgelings was perched on the top of the fence, looking up like it wanted to be fed. It flew up there somehow. We were relieved.

That’s the last time we saw either of the fledglings, although the parents were still buzzing us in the backyard. We guessed that there are other fledgelings to protect and still feed before they leave the secretive nest.

I hope what we did helped. The rain stopped, finally. I hope the fledgelings grow up healthy and return to nest here when mature enough. I’ll keep the makeshift nest up, in case they want to use it. Or, they can build their own, wherever that may be. I’ll never find it.

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