Observations of a Tea Drinker: The Cardinal’s Nest

Dedicated to all my bird loving friends on social media

Springtime brings out the birdwatcher in me and combines well with my life as a tea aficionado. There’s nothing like grabbing a steaming cupful and staring out the kitchen window or patio doors to see these feathered fliers. They are usually flitting among the ever-increasing palette of blooms in our garden or thorny roses on the trellis against the garage wall. Great therapy and a break in the day.

All the essentials for great bird watching for this tea aficionado
All the essentials for great bird watching for this tea aficionado

Unlike tea, where I try to learn as much as possible, our bird friends are something I enjoy on a casual basis. Frequently, I regard them as little creatures leaving droppings everywhere and startling me by flying out of a bush I’m pruning. In reality, they have several enjoyable qualities. They make pretty music, singing to other birds, and they consume tons of bugs every year. That’s one reason we never set out bird feeders. (The other is that we don’t want to attempt a “squirrel war.”)

In Spring, though, the cardinals, jays, wrens, etc., take on new significance – a sign of life returning to the outside world, warbling to attract a mate.

One year, my husband and I discovered that a pair of cardinals had picked our rose trellis as their thorny abode. Their nest is tucked into a spot high off the ground, easily escaping the neighbor’s prowling cat (or, as we call him, the “Great Striped Hunter”), and sheltered from excessive wind, rain, and sun by the rose leaves, blooms, and canes. Being against a wall, they stay safe from swooping hawks and owls that would get tangled in the trellis.

With our binoculars in hand, we watched the mother cardinal roosting on the nest, incubating the eggs while the chicks formed inside. A true thrill came when the eggs hatched and we could watch “Momma” and “Poppa” busily going back and forth to the nest, doing their best to satisfy the two ravenous hatchlings. Having no children, we don’t know about 2 a.m. feedings. I can imagine, though, that they would be simple compared with the constant back and forth these winged providers have to perform.

Birds don’t live by bugs alone, though. They need lots of water for drinking and bathing. So, we have several bird baths of various sizes and heights set out among the shrubbery. My husband makes it his duty to hose out the bird baths and fill them with fresh water every morning. Our “Momma” and “Poppa” cardinals swoop over to them, drinking in water, then returning to the nest to pass it on to their young.

The roses were left unpruned
The roses were left unpruned

Meanwhile, the roses have gone unpruned. The few times I tried, the momma bird would fly out of the nest into a nearby tree and scold me mercilessly. On one occasion, she even took a swoop at me. Wearing a very broad-brimmed hat, I missed the show, but my husband was able to fill me in on all the action. What a time to wish for a digital movie camera. We would have been a YouTube sensation. I can see the headline now: “Nature fights back – or the War of the Roses.”

Oh, well, the pruning will have to wait. I do my best to ignore the dead blooms and rose seed pods forming. It should only take a few weeks for the chicks to mature and learn to fly. Then, I can prune to my heart’s content. Snip, snip here! Snip, snip there!

Watching this simple tableau of life brings to mind the saying: “Never take small pleasures for granted.”

A good bit of advice to mull over with another cup of tea.

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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