I have to admit all of God’s creatures captivate me, and this year has been no exception when it comes to baby birds.
I’ve had two nests on my front porch in Broad Creek, one in a bush next to where I park my vehicle and a fourth in a bush beside my house. Being an avid photographer, it has been a dream come true to document the life of baby birds from hatching until the day they leave their nests and begin fledging in my yard.
I currently have four or five baby mockingbirds rotating bushes in my yard as the parents continue to feed them. Meanwhile, just Saturday I discovered a pair of cardinals have built a nest in a tall bush next to my house and the mother is currently laying on eggs.
While I treasure each experience this year, the most remarkable was being able to get a bird’s eye view when the babies came out of their nests. This happened a few weeks ago with one tiny mockingbird I affectionately named Mozart because of his exceptional song. I was privileged to listen to every note, albeit loud, as he made his wishes to be fed known to his very busy parent, who constantly flew back and forth from the nest with food in their mouths.
While it was a joy to see him take his first leap from the nest, that paled in comparison to what I witnessed three weeks ago when I watched four baby wrens make their brave exit from a birdhouse attached to a post on my front porch.
I had calculated the days when the birds would be old enough to leave their nest and had my camera and lenses ready on the Saturday they made their epic leap for bird-kind.
To say I was excited as I sat quietly in a rocking chair on my porch near the birdhouse is an understatement. Just ask my co-workers, who I excitedly texted on a Saturday to let them know what I was witnessing.
As I watched, the first fledgling peaked out of the small hole in the birdhouse as the parents chirped approval from a nearby tree. The tiny bird grew braver and braver, until it finally attempted to step out on a pencil we had installed on the birdhouse to serve as a perch.
It wasn’t the most graceful moment for the young wren as it tried to balance on the round pencil, then suddenly found itself hanging upside down as it clung on. Then, as if on cue, the songbird attempted to flap its wings as it fell onto the porch, right at my feet.
I admit I was taken aback by the moment and wasn’t quite sure what to do. Neither was the little guy on the porch as our eyes met as it sat there looking up at me.
The other three babies remained in the birdhouse, frantically sounding their disapproval of their sibling’s actions. I decided it might be a good idea to try to put the little one back in the nest, but it would have none of that and quickly hopped into bushes that surround my porch.
I decided it was time to quietly slip back into the house after grabbing a few photos and observe what happened. The parents quickly started feeding the babies in the birdhouse, but didn’t seem to realize there was one down in the bushes.
Since I cover stories with the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport, one of the best wildlife resources in Carteret County, I called them for advice. I was concerned the parents wouldn’t see their youngster on the ground.
But almost as soon as I called, the parents saw the tiny fledgling and began bringing food, much to my relief.
Once things somewhat calmed down, I quietly slipped back into the rocking chair on the porch with gear in hand, and suddenly the other three wrens began making their exit from the house. It all happened within a half-hour period.
Based on the resources I had been studying, I knew the father bird would begin leading the babies out to other bushes, where the parents would continue to feed them for another two weeks. After that, the fledglings would be on their own.
I’ve studied a lot about the three types of birds I’ve shared nesting adventures with this year. I learned I had unknowingly been preparing a perfect habitat for them to nest by planting numerous azaleas and other bushes over the years. I also keep birdfeeders in the yard.
I now have my husband somewhat onboard with these escapades, and he gave me a birdhouse for my birthday a couple of years ago. While it was placed on the post almost two years ago, it took until this year for a pair of wrens to decide to take up residence. A pair of sparrows and Carolina chickadees also checked it out, but there was no room in the birdhouse inn.
My third nest, built by mockingbirds, has also been a special experience. Four babies recently left that nest, built in a thick bush next to my driveway. I still hear their insistent chirping pleas for food everyday and estimate the parents will feed for about another week, then they, too, will be on their own.
As for the cardinals, I patiently wait.
I encourage residents to plant bushes and place birdfeeders and birdhouses in their yards. With more and more trees and habitat being taken down as the county develops, it will be up to the human residents to provide alternative places for our feathered friends to live and raise their families.
Cheryl Burke covers education and human and animal interest stories for the News-Times. Her bird tales have captivated the newsroom this spring. She can be reached by phone at 252-726-7081, ext. 255, email at Cheryl@thenewstimes.com or on Twitter @cherylccnt.