Two or three chirps followed by a chorus of squeaky peeps — that was my daily soundtrack in the mountains a few weeks ago. I had a front-row seat to creation in progress. The circle of life right outside my bathroom window.
My husband and I spent two weeks in my family’s mountain cabin in Banner Elk, North Carolina. It is a tradition each May. We love springtime in the mountains. Everything is so green, flowers are blooming and plenty of birds to entertain us.
A couple of days into our trip, I heard a rustling in the bushes outside my bathroom window. When I looked to see what it was, I spied a female cardinal. Her beautiful, bright red mate was in the tree across the driveway. It wasn’t the first time I had seen him. Then, upon closer inspection, I discovered their nest — right outside my window.
While they were away gathering food or doing whatever momma and daddy cardinals do, I snuck a peek into the nest. Babies! Three of the tiniest little birds lay curled up sleeping. They were so cute. Well, actually, as is true of most baby birds, they were kind of ugly with their unfeathered flesh and bulging eyes. But, that’s beside the point. I’m sure their parents thought they were the most adorable creatures they had ever seen.
Momma bird came back and sat on the nest. It was a rainy couple of weeks so she often sat in the rain. I think she was aware of my presence because every time I looked out at the nest her beady black eye stared back at me. Back off human!
Two days after I first spotted the fledgling family of cardinals, I got a real treat. Momma bird was away so I peeked in the nest. The babies were sound asleep but their hearts were beating away. A few minutes later, amidst tiny peeps coming from the nest, I was witness to cardinal lunch time. Tiny necks stretched upward, mouths opened wide and momma bird appeared with food for her babes. Daddy cardinal followed with the second course then they both flew off to gather more.
It’s hard work raising babies.
I watched momma bird sit on her nest day after day. I’m sure she felt confined at times, especially when rain was dripping on her head. Once, it looked like she was nodding off. Do it tired, momma, do it tired. Can anyone relate?
I was impressed with how this cute cardinal couple took care of their fledglings. Although they weren’t on the nest all the time, they were always close by. Daddy cardinal made his presence known, especially when I got a little too close to his offspring.
The routine of chirps and peeps began each day as early as 5:00 a.m. and I heard them throughout the day. (Baby birds eat a lot.) Their peeps got progressively louder as the days went by, but I noticed they were silent when they were alone. Momma and Daddy cardinal were diligent to keep them fed and safe in their little nest in the bush.
The morning we left, I checked on the baby birds one last time. I saw feathers and wings and beady little eyes. They looked more like birds. I hoped to see the process of them leaving the nest but I guess they needed a few more days.
We are heading back to the mountains in about a week. I can’t wait to check on the nest but, I’m sure it will be empty. Maybe I will spot a cardinal pair with three young cardinals hanging around. We will regard each other with the wisdom of parents; they grow up and leave the nest too soon, don’t they?
Happy Father’s Day Mr. Cardinal