"How Parenthood Is Supposed To Be"

Pat Fish

It's smack dab in the middle of the nesting season and the birds in my surround show the stress. Bird parents come to the feeders, their feathers in the same disarray my own human hairs take when dealing with the child of my womb.

The other day I retreated to my car for a quick cigaret and a ten-minute eye rest. As I leaned back in the seat, my eyes were taken by a starling furiously hunting bugs in the nearby grass. I knew, just three days prior, that there was a nest of starlings under the eaves. First, you could HEAR the things. There is nothing louder than a nest full of starlings.

I pegged this starling hunting bugs in front of my automobile as a parent of the noisy nestlings.

I never did lie back for eye rest as I could not get over my amazement at the starling parent.

She grabbed, poked, prodded, and flew all over the grassy plot in her pursuit of bug food. Just as soon as she got a beakful, she headed to those eaves with the bounty. As predicted, the starling babies sang loudly to their mother so that all but the deaf were aware of their need for bug food. After less than ten seconds, the starling flew back to the grassy plot to obtain more bugs.

If a moth or other flying insect flew by, the starling jumped into the air and grabbed it on the wing. With no pause, she flew back to the nest and the world listened once again to the baby starling cries. Less than ten seconds again, she is back on the grass.

I could see her frenzy. The bird was almost in a desperate state. She walked along impatiently, shoving dirt and grass to the side with her beak. She needed bugs and she needed them quick. Just as soon as she found anything, she flew back to the nest.

A pair of mockingbirds also have a youngster somewhere on this grassy hill. I can hear at least one of the little buggers screeching to his parents. These mockingbirds fly around so very busy they make me tired. First they must deal with the crows who love to perch on the nearby power line. Then they must feed the little one that cares not for the dangerous crows his parents keep at bay. All day they buzz, fly, chase, and search for bugs.

A titmouse couple has some babies that hatched directly in my own yard and directly out of a fence pole. This was amazing to watch. And I know that one youngster did not come out of the pole for at least three days beyond the time when his nest mates had already fledged. I watched the titmouse parents feed the ones spread upon the ground and also return to the pole nest to feed the one that just would not come out.

Each day I would walk by the pole and give it a tap.

"You have to come out of there some time," I would say to the recalcitrant baby.

The baby answered me with an abbreviated version of that "rubber ducky" squeak his parents do so well.

And the youngster eventually did come out of there. I hear the titmouse father call the little ones with that soft "peter-peter." It's a calming call, its gentle notes telling the young ones that all is well, follow me.

Then I hear the parents giving loud squeeze toy sounds and I must conclude the children are in some danger or are misbehaving. I can hear the little ones' squeeze toy sounds all over the place. They make me smile.

The ducks have duck children that cause them worry. The sounds of mother ducks calling their young that should not have swam from sight echo throughout the cove.

Blue jays fly in to the feeders for a scoop of sunflower seeds. Their feathers are all over the place but where they should be. I know that these are bird parents. When I see a bird with feathers in disarray I know that there are children in the nest.

The ospreys fly down into the cove at least six times a day. A common sound is a loud splash, followed by an osprey flying down the cove with a handsome fish clutched in its talons.

I can feel the anxiety in this bird, too. He makes far more dives that leave him empty taloned. He is striking too soon in his haste to obtain fish for what has to be a full nest. When he catches a fish, I watch him pump those wings with all of his might to gain altitude and get back to that nest. There's something inspiring about that osprey as he hunches his body tight and flaps his wings with what is evidently all of his might. He reminds me of a football player, a fishball clutched in his talons, who just crossed that twenty-yard line and is heading with undistracted determination to the nest goal line.

The birds that do not migrate are beginning yet again new nest preparations. A pair of cardinals can be seen acting like silly fools in love and exchanging seeds. A robin pair is checking out the nearby bushes.

There is a thrum of life in the air around these parts. I can just step onto my porch and within five minutes my senses are full of the sounds and activities of the birds that must, they simply must, reproduce now and during this time when weather permits and food is plentiful.

I cheer them on as best I can with only human abilities. I have cheered that osprey over the goal line. I like to think I may have talked that titmouse out of the nest. I smile at the blue jays with the disheveled feathers and offer them some seed before they must search for more bugs.

They do not need my human ministrations although they certainly do not mind. It's inspiring to me, a mere human who lives in a society run amok with parents that murder their children and leave them in a basement or abuse them to have them taken away.

This time of the year, I look to the skies for the simple truth of it all. I look to the birds, with their dedication to raising their children to maturity in time for the hard winter, to show me how it's supposed to be.