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Empty Nest

by | Jul 22, 2013

The sweetest thing about our little wild robin baby was how his black crest stood up when he was excited.  Or maybe the sweetest were the coos and chirps he spoke to us in response to our words.  Sometimes he got so happy hearing us talk, he would close his eyes, coo a little and just fall asleep. The morning we were alone after a three-boy “Grandma Week,” he ate breakfast and then fell asleep as if–finally–a little peace and quiet.

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But he had taken the visiting family in stride. He let the boys stroke his feathers and hold him on a finger. He ran around the driveway with them. He could count on one of them noticing if he came hungry to the back door. He hung out with them around the laptop computer one evening.

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One day when we had taken the boys to the Virginia Living Museum, we got a puzzled call from their dad, who had just come into town. “There’s a robin at the door asking for something!  What do I do?”  We gave instructions on the feeding process, and everything went smoothly.  The next day the same thing happened to the boys’ mother, who, however, figured it out on her own.

By this time the robin was spending nights outdoors instead of on the blade of our kitchen ceiling fan.  But he kept an eye out for the first shadow of someone downstairs ready to make coffee, and–Bump!  He flew into the window just hard enough to get our attention, but not hard enough to hurt himself.

He seemed to thrive on a little slapstick comedy.  Once when we were all clustered around him at the feeding, and he had had enough, he turned to take off into the air.  But he happened to be just above a slanted railing, and so, instead of taking off, he slid down the bannister on his tail, making us all laugh!

One morning a different bird was in our fountain, delighting in a splashy bath.  Our robin sat on the rim for a long time, watching.  Then, slowly, he edged into the water and tried it.  His wings fluttered and the water flew.  He settled in happily—another bird lesson learned.











Though he still had the speckled breast of a baby robin, he was becoming long and sleek; he could fly with amazing skill. But we were worried about his hunting lessons. If I pointed out a worm in the dirt as we weeded our sunflowers, he ignored it totally, screeching instead for his usual treats. He still ate prodigious amounts of our food.  Would he be flying back for it the rest of his life?  We almost hoped so.













Then one day he flew past my head with something in his beak.  He perched on the edge of the porch roof and gobbled it, legs and all.  I had the distinct impression that he was showing off.  Another day, he flew to the railing and dropped two pale red wild cherries in front of me, as if presenting a gift.  He looked hopefully at me, and then I got it—this was meant to be an exchange.  I traded fat juicy blueberries for those sour-looking little cherries, and he flew off with a loud chirp.

That was his last meal at our house.  The next morning there was no bumping at the window, no chirping from the crape myrtle tree, no wings dive-bombing our heads. We couldn’t help feeling the loss and sadness of an empty nest. He was six weeks old, and he was grown.  He was on his own, just as he should have been.

Two days later, we were walking under our biggest oak tree.  Suddenly there was a lively chirp from a high spreading branch.  We looked up and saw a robin with a speckled breast.  We called to him, “Hey, little bird!” There was an answering chirp. We traded chirps and coos and words until we were content.  We had had our good-byes, and maybe a thank-you as well.