Mark Washburn

Mystery of birds’ nest is a ritual of spring

There is a surge of new development in my neighborhood.

A nice young couple has moved in with three chirpy youngsters. They occupy a popular spot, an eave at the top of the side porch.

By the construction of their nest, I can tell this couple is taking a first stab at homeownership. It’s rough around the edges, clearly a starter home, but they seem comfy enough.

Year after year, couples like that pick the same corner of the eaves to set up housekeeping. None have ever occupied any other quadrant; only the southeast corner will do. I don’t know why.

All I know of real estate is location, location, location. It must be true. Every spring, only that precise nook fits the bill.

This has been a good year for fledglings. Our generous April showers have turned the sidewalks into wriggling buffets of worms.

Some years have been drier and calamitous. A time or two, the inhabitants of the nest have abandoned it long before their lease was up. I don’t know why.

I wish I knew my birds better. I only know what they are not: pelicans or parakeets, penguins or parrots.

They appear to be to one of the lesser-celebrated species, one that could benefit from a professional imaging campaign.

You know orioles and cardinals by their paint jobs; maybe these are sparrows or wrens, the Honda Civics of nature’s aviary. They are plain birds, ill-suited to the pageant life.

Nonetheless, we treat them like celebrities. Secretly, through the dark glass of the laundry room door, we peek into their aerie to watch their flutterings and admire their babies. It’s fun, this exercise of respective superpowers – they can fly, and we are invisible.

Not to brag, but they have chosen excellent landlords. We leave them alone, even when things get a little loud, and protect them in unseen ways.

One year, I spied a green snake, repulsively beautiful, curling its way up the column toward the nest. It gave off a distinct “Reptile, party of one” vibe.

I don’t like to mess with nature’s plan, but we weren’t having any of that. Not on my watch.

I toted it to some nearby woods where a less exotic lunch presumably could be found.

In drought years, a water bowl may take up residence near the nest, mysteriously filling itself at night while the tenants slumber. They’re not to be mocked for believing in the water fairy.

Flying lessons usually commence around Father’s Day, and this is when their hosts must be extra vigilant. Man and cat, usually trusted allies, suspend diplomatic relations for a time and exchange cold stares.

Wee aviators are afoot then, and they sometimes must be scooped off the grass and tossed into the blue where the thrills are to be found.

Next thing you know, it’s autumn, and they’re gone. Then comes spring, and they move right back in to the same cozy corner, singing like they don’t have a worry in the world. I don’t know why.

Washburn: 704-358-5007;

Twitter: @WashburnChObs.

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