They are here! Having burst from their egg shells, they extend skinny little necks and huge gaping beaks to attract food from their devoted parents. Papa and mama mockingbird never tire to feed the big little mouths, collecting worms and seeds from the area.
My, how fast they grow! Necks are longer now, feathers are starting to form, and they have a meek little voice by now.
Parent birds are now aggressively chasing away any possible predators, including crows, cats and other mockingbirds. They are fierce in protecting their little ones, dive-bombing any cat that dares to venture outside. My two cats are staying indoors during the day, unheard-of behavior for them! The two adopted feral cats are less intimidated by the attacking birds.
One of the feral cats has made it into the lemon tree and managed to dislodge the nest a little. Thank God I made it just in time to scream at Seth and chase him away. Oh, the look he gave me! He is really a nice cat that likes to be petted a little bit, but feral cats are merciless hunters above all. How could I forget that?
Birds are on hyper-alert now, attacking even me as I check the nest. Little ones stay very quiet and subdued during the day, only chirping when the adults approach to feed them.
We wrapped all the lemon tree branches loosely with aluminum foil to discourage the cats from climbing. Looks quite ridiculous, but the parent birds don’t seem to mind.
EXODUS! This morning, all was still well as I checked on the little ones. They now have feathers with distinctive white marks on them. Shouldn’t be long until they can try their first flight!
BUT: Coming home in the afternoon, I find the nest empty. My heart stops. The aluminum foil wrapped around the main lemon tree branches are ripped, showing cat claw marks. Some pieces of foil are floating on the lawn nearby. Did some cat kill the baby birds? But I don’t see a single little feather nearby, and the parent birds still exhibit their protective cat-attacking behavior. What happened? I observe mama and papa mockingbird for quite some time. It seems that the baby birds are still alive, but scattered around the area. Maybe they had to do an emergency evacuation when the cat approached, and the little ones got kicked out of the nest. Their first flight! Not sure they were ready for it quite yet. Frantically I search for the baby birds. Funny how my protective instincts are being triggered by birds, to the extent that I even neglect my favorite pet cats.
Alive or not? I hear the little ones and recognize their voices, but I can’t see them. Observing the parents birds for quite some time, I find that the baby birds experienced different fates from being kicked out of the nest. At least one of them is on the ground nearby underneath a Guava tree. It’s not safe for a baby bird to be on the ground. I try to locate at least one of them near the place where I see the parents descend to feed it, but I can’t find the little one. I have a small box padded with soft fuzz from the dryer, so I can rescue one or two. Other fledglings seem to be dispersed over the neighbor’s yard. There were four eggs initially. Number four always seemed a little weaker than the other ones. Will he/she make it?
I hope I will see little fledglings in the trees, learning beautiful songs from their parents. Amazing how much I have become attached to this process of life unfolding before my eyes. Am I too sentimental? Maybe. And I also know that we are all called upon protecting life, in tiny ways and sometimes in big ways.
Good news: at least two baby mockingbirds have survived a couple of days and nights. I still can’t see them, but I hear their pleading tweets. By now their little wings should be strong enough to fly up into a tree.
Final chapter 10
The survivors made it! I saw one of them fly from one tree to the next, no crash landing this time. They still ask to be fed, but they are out of the immediate danger zone. Parent birds still attack my cats the minute cats dare to step outside, but they seem a little less aggressive. Parenting is a tough job, even in the animal kingdom!
It’s time to let go of my obsession with protecting the birds. Phew! Thank you, Mother Nature, for inviting me to participate in the great experience of watching new life emerge and prevail.