Birds Away!

Posted on August 17, 2019


A few weeks ago, we had a happy morning for those of us in the Clayton household. Fred and Henry, our baby Robins, left their nest and took flight! I felt like a new father.

And I witnessed it all just as dawn was breaking through the trees and backyard to the east, which is, of course, where the sun usually comes up. The world hasn’t gone upside down quite yet.

I watched the miracle of God’s work in our natural world as Fred and Henry stretched their young wings and took flight and felt an elation with the order and beauty of this world.

I know, that’s an attempt at soaring prose, and I’m not made of soaring prose, or poetry. But with all the bad news in the world coming at us at 24 hours a day from all the talking heads across the spectrum of politics and culture it’s nice to witness something good, something miraculous, the beginning of life outside the nest for Fred and Henry.

I deliberately have not gone to the Internet or Wikipedia to do a quick study of Robins and birds in general to give you the physiological and natural details of how and why this all happens. You can look up birds and Robins as well as I.

About six or seven weeks ago I noticed two bird nests in our front porch, in the corners on either side of the house since it is a wrap-around porch. It is our new porch, BTW, built since a fire destroyed our home 2 ½ years ago–our new, rather pristine, porch with nice new furniture, all new paint and finishings, from where we could look out over the yard and garden, the azaleas in bloom still, the roses flooding the front with color, lovely. And then I noticed a bunch of sticks and twigs up on the corner of the porch where the roof and one of the porch support beams intersect.

A bird making its nest! In our beautiful new—and clean –porch. What to do! Destroy it was not an option. I have three Standard Poodles, well one is actually a Golden Doodle, but he has pretensions to being a Standard, who I love very much, and it is reciprocated. I like animals. So does my wife Louise. So, we accepted what fortune had dealt to our new, tidy, clean porch.

We called the mama Melissa after a friend of ours who is a very busy person. Melissa the Robin was however having some problems in building her nest. She found plenty of mud, sticks, twigs, and vegetation bric-a-brac around the house, yard and neighborhood, but somehow it wasn’t sticking to where it was supposed to in the corner of one side of the porch, up far enough where I couldn’t poke either my eyes or my arms to see what was going on without a ladder. Then I noticed another nest building up on the other end of the porch. Two Robins? Do they have a network?

“These two, Louise and Larry, are softies for animals and birds. Let’s build, build, build!”

Well, Melissa’s first next failed to stick and so she moved across the porch and built a second nest. This nesting business can be very serious. Ladies are especially prone to moving things around to make their nests more comfortable and in keeping with their current sense of décor. Men are comfortable as things are. If I were to throw myself on my favorite chair without a look, I may land on the floor after my live in Robin has rearranged everything, again.

Fred and Henry, BTW, seem to be doing fine, flying around the yard and through the trees with great dexterity, something that our young ones reached at about their teen years. Fred, or Henry’s, first flight however was a bit rocky and he landed in the backyard. I heard a racket, Stanley, Miller, and Dudley surrounding and barking at the little guy. But no biting. These big Poodles are soft-mounted hunting dogs, not cats on the prowl. I grabbed them and brought them in and looked out a few minutes later. Fred or Henry was gone, and the squawking and angry chirping of his mom and dad in the trees ended. He was a free and flying Robin going on with his life.

I began to have an empty nest syndrome a few days later, wondering where Fred and Henry had gone and how they were doing. My last empty nester is twenty-seven and flying Hawker and Lear jets for a charter service out of St. Petersburg, Fl. I thought how appropriate. He too is flying, and it is exciting to be zipping around the country, just like Fred and Henry are zipping from tree to tree, dropping down occasionally like mom Melissa to pick up a tasty worm. Life is immensely gratifying if you stop long enough to smell the roses and to take care of your Robins and other offspring flitting about.

Published as “Living with empty-nest syndrome, literally,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday June 16, 2019