Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Learning to Fly

Mother's Day was a really great day.

I had the "special music" assignment at church for the early service, which basically means I sing the solo during the offering. It also means I have to be at church at 8AM, leaving my husband and daughter to join me later, since the service doesn't actually start until 8:45. Since it was Mother's Day, my mom and mother-in-law joined us, as well. Following church, we all went back to my house for brunch, which I had pre-prepared on Saturday.

My mom loves to plant flowers at her house, and has quite the green thumb. So, for Mother's Day I got her some new gardening gloves, a kneeling pad and a wide-brimmed, floppy straw hat. The hat ended up not only being a good gift, but also a source for entertainment, as you can see here:

I'm not sure why we didn't get Sweeter (Teddy's mom) to put the hat on, too. We had just finished eating and were sitting around the dining table passing that silly hat around and laughing our heads off.

Sweeter's gift was a quilt Teddy had made for her out of Casey's old t-shirts from when he was a little boy. It was a wonderful gift for a wonderful lady.

After eating and opening gifts, we went to the patio and chatted for a couple of hours. The weather was beautiful and it was really nice to spend time with our moms in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. And it's always fun to listen to the two of them tell stories about their children. I never tire of hearing stories about my husband as a young boy, especially those revolving around his getting into mischief.

The moms left around 3pm, and Emily and I put our swimsuits on and spent some time by the pool.  I was lying there reading my book, minding my own business, when out of nowhere a bird pooped right on the edge of my chair. I don't know why I'm a magnet for bird poop, but if you're ever at the beach with me, I advise that you stay a few feet away, especially if there are any seagulls flying around. I don't understand it, and I certainly don't celebrate it, but I've learned over the span of my 45 years that I attract two things: crazy people and bird poop. Consider yourself warned.

But I digress.

ANYWAY... so the bird poops on my chair, and I get kinda agitated, and I look up to see that it's one of two cardinals I've noticed flying around my yard quite often the past few weeks. I had noticed previously that these birds - one a bright red male, and the other a brown female - were quite aggressive toward other birds in the yard, especially a blue jay that tried once to land in one of our trees. The red birds chased that blue jay away from the tree and out of our yard, which is something I had NEVER seen before. Blue jays are typically the aggressors, and can be really mean to other birds and small animals. I actually saw one dive bomb my dog one time. Freaked me out, to be honest.

So here were these two cardinals again, this time showing their respect by pooping on me. I had had enough! I grabbed the water hose and started spraying the top of the fence where they were perched. They flew away, and I cleaned the poop off my chair and off the concrete, put the hose away, sat back down, and noticed those darn birds had come right back to perch in the same spot. I watched them for a few minutes and realized that each bird would take turns flying away, and then return to the same spot. They would then drop down to the ground at the base of the fence, where we have flower beds topped with pine straw, and then fly away again. The male did that, and then a few minutes later the female would do the same. I couldn't figure out what they were up to, until I saw what looked like a little brown fur ball bounce up and down and the base of the fence.

I went inside and got my camera and attached my telephoto lens and saw this:


There were two baby birds! I'm not sure if they had fallen from a tree that was a few feet away from where they were, or if the mom had built the nest in this spot to begin with. But I kept my distance and captured a couple of cool shots. At this point, both the mama and daddy birds were feeding the babies, flying off to get more food, and then returning to feed them again. I was surprised to see both parents feeding the babies; I thought only mama birds fed their young.


The daddy bird was really quick and my camera wasn't cooperating, so I never got a shot of him feeding the other baby. I only caught him when he was perched on the fence.


In this picture he was watching the mama feed the baby. It really was cool. But it wasn't the coolest thing I witnessed. I wish I had been able to videotape what happened later, but if I had moved, it would've scared them. And since I had already sprayed them with the water hose, I figured I had done enough scaring for one day.

A couple of hours after I first spotted the babies, Teddy and I watched as the two parents taught the babies how to fly. It was one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen. The parents would perch on top of the fence, as in the photo above, looking at the babies. Then, as if they were saying, "See, watch how I do this," they would fly off, landing on the roof next door. Then they would return to the fence, and do it again. The first little baby started sort of bouncing, with his little wings flapping hard. He would get about two feet off the ground and then fall back to the pine straw. After doing that a few times, he got some air under him and flew up, landing on the first rung of the fence. He stayed there for a few minutes, and flew up to the second rung. All the while, the mom and dad birds were still "showing him" how to fly to the roof. He stayed on the second rung for a few more minutes, and then flew to the top rung. And then, much to our surprise and delight, he flew! He followed his mom and dad, and landed on the roof next door. They stayed there a few more minutes, as a family, and then he followed his parents - flying! - to a tree in our front yard. It was awesome!

The second baby bird was a slightly slower learner, but he eventually made it out after nightfall. I haven't seen the cardinals at all in the past couple of days, but I hope I will always remember them. I learned several things about those birds in the few weeks they inhabited my yard. I learned that they will aggressively protect their young, that both the mama and the daddy do the work and feed their kids, and that they will not abandon their children until they have successfully taught them how to fly.

If all parents of the human variety would do those things for their own offspring, our world would be a much better place.

Luckily, Teddy and I both have mamas that love and care for us. And I try to be the best mom I can for my daughter. I vigilantly protect and care for her. I have worked hard her whole life to keep a roof over her head, and food in her belly. And I've done my best to be a good example and to teach her how to fly. I just hope I'm still around when she's all grown up so I can witness her incredible flight.

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