Friday, March 7, 2008

For the Birds

I guess I am, although ornithology is not my area of expertise. But Florida, where we now live, is also home to a wonderful variety of birds. Our house is situated on a long, broad waterway.Pelicans swoop down along the waterway, and a variety of birds regularly visit the pilings at our dock, including a young eagle, an occasional ibis or blue heron and the ubiquitous seagull.

But my favorite-feathered visitor is the annual arrival of a pair of Mourning Doves. They found our Mediterranean style roof, with exposed rafters attached to the overhanging eaves, an ideal spot to build a nest. We came across their first nest several years ago right over our front door so during the nesting period we could not use the door without disturbing them, and, of course, their droppings discouraged using that entrance as well.

So while we were too late to dissuade them from situating the nest over our front door, I looked into “bird-blocking” products to discourage such future activity and ordered something that was “guaranteed” to work, without injuring the bird. What arrived was something that looked like a small plastic barbed wire (without the barbs, though), which I could not bring myself to install. Instead, I resolved (for the following year, if the doves returned) to find a way to “invite” them to move down a few feet to another part of the ledge.

Sure enough, the next spring they arrived (whether they were the same pair or the prior year’s nestlings is unknown) and I placed a broom on the ledge over the front door. So they reconnoitered another part of the ledge and began to build their nest there.

As I had removed their old nest, and was now witness to their pathetic efforts to build a new one (doves are notoriously inept nest builders I learned), guilt and empathy drove me into their employ, gathering little twigs, laying them on the ground near the nest, to expedite the process. I smiled at this prospect as only a few years before I was CEO of an international publishing company, with hundreds of employees, and I now toil for a couple of birds who do not seem to have the foggiest idea how to build a secure nest.

My doves seemed to be equally perplexed by the actions of this interloper but I suppose they sized me up as not being a threat, and ultimately accepted me as part of the “team” using most of the twigs I gathered.

They are funny but beautiful birds with their soft cooing sounds. They walk around in our courtyard, seemingly in random patterns, blinking their eyes, suddenly flying off to wherever they fly off to. Before they lay their eggs, they do not inhabit the nest, leaving after their day’s work and returning with the morning sun to continue construction. Once the eggs are laid one is always there.

In a few weeks the chicks are born and the parents seem to “dare” them to fly, leaving them alone in the nest, but strutting teasingly in their view on the roof or on the wall that surround our home’s courtyard. Last year, one chick effortlessly flew to join the parent on the roof, but the other remained in the nest, alone for days. Clearly, the remaining chick was terrified, walking around the rafters, occasionally flexing his wings, but returning to the nest until the following day. I found myself checking out the situation daily, hoping that I would not be left with more responsibility – after all, helping to build the nest is enough! But finally, off he went.

This entry announces the nesting pair’s arrival yesterday. Unfortunately, while the old nest survived the last two seasons, I had to take it down to clean the house and repaint that area. Luckily, they picked the same spot, so no broom redirection is necessary. But, enough writing, time has come to gather some twigs.