Saturday, May 7, 2016

Nature Study - Junco Babies and the Cruel Reality of Nature

Nature can be so brutal.  Homesteading requires a certain connection to nature.  Feeling the rhythm of the seasons and observing more about my hardworking space has become paramount to success of growing food in our neighborhood backyard.

This year we have had a ton of firsts on our quarter-acre homestead.  First pears on our trees, first try at a clover lawn, first time problem solving because a garden bed wouldn't even sprout seeds, but best of all, our first birds nest. 

 A sweet mama junco decided that the center of our garden was the perfect place to make a nest and raise her babies.  I was SO excited.  I can't even tell you how often I have wanted my space to be a sanctuary for birds.  Especially after the Cedar Waxwing fiasco (cat) from a few years ago and the chicken deaths of last summer (puppy).  I have spent a lot of time making my predator pets louder and my space safer for my feathered friends, domestic and wild.

The space the mama junco chose happened to be in the very center of my garden pathway tucked into the pot I dedicated to a very invasive variety of mint.  (You can see the pot behind the gate.)

When she made the nest, it was a nice green patch, but as the weather has gotten warmer the mint has gotten leggy and I knew that the cats would eat her and the babies if they could.  So I put a cage around the outside of the nest to keep the cats out. 

We had such fun watching the mama after the babies hatched!

Every day I would go out there, with or without camera, to check on them.  While their eyes were closed they would open their mouths to the sky at the slightest disturbance to the mint patch or makeshift fence.  And seriously, how ugly cute are these sweet pink bodies?

Back and forth, back and forth, all day long the mama would bring them food.  She also came to the feeder for her own nourishment and I was sure to keep the feeder stocked with junco favorites like black-oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes.

Yesterday I noticed that they had started peeping loudly whenever mama would drop off a mouthful.  I wondered how smart that was with them being so exposed.  I also noticed that the mint was wilting and flowering.  Making the root area sparse.  I wondered briefly if I should water the mint to give them a slight amount of cover.  I have no idea if that would have helped or not, but I didn't do it because I was worried about making the nest and babies wet.

Apparently they were just exposed enough to be temptation for a predator.   Because this morning, the nest is destroyed and the babies are gone.  We only found one and it was dead.  I believe it was a cat.  I am really hoping it wasn't the one I worked so hard to keep out of the darn garden.

Being in love with nature is a real double edged sword.  On one hand, I absolutely loved watching them.  I loved seeing them get bigger, watching the mama (and in the last two days the daddy has been feeding them too!)  It was a delight to share this bit of space with such a dedicated mama.  Which made it even more heartbreaking finding one dead on the ground. Often times, homesteading means being more aware of your space and what is happening in it.  And that has emotional effects when something goes wrong.  Tears have been shed, hearts hurt.  

Especially when we noticed the mama carrying around bugs all morning, wondering why the calls of her babies never came.  

My beautiful back yard will be a sobering space for a few days.

Sometimes nature can be just brutal.


1 comment

Unknown said...

Out of three, we just had two little juncos survive and they hopped out of the nest this morning. I'm so fearful something will happen to the little darlings. They were hatched in a flower basket hanging by our bedroom window. Not sure what happened to the third, it just disappeared before getting any rate, I know what you mean. We love nature, but nature takes it's own course...

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