In the midst of the fear and uncertainty of current events, I have found some solace in the everyday, carry-on-as-usual activity of Sialia sialis, i.e the Eastern Bluebird. I built a box last year and hung in on a tree close to our house, positioned so that I could lazily sit at my kitchen window and watch the activity. A pair of bluebirds made multiple trips in and out of the box but never made a nest. Suspecting they got spooked by the household activity and domestic pet presence I moved the box during the winter months to a more suitable location
I started surveying the box at the beginning of March. We had a cool rainy start to the year which apparently can put off bluebirds from nesting. Nonetheless on 3/21 I was rewarded with this sight
The next day there were two more eggs (not shown), the day after that four, and then the final total became five
Apparently five eggs is the most common number. Each egg is 21 mm long on average, just under an inch. Nest is made entirely of grass. Though my observations were limited, I never saw an adult bird bring in nesting material. Though I didn’t check the box every day, the nest seemed to appear magically – one day the box was empty and the next time I checked there was a substantial collection of grass, perfectly formed in a cup like shape, crowned by the first egg. Also, I didn’t’ see a adult bird near the nest until after all five eggs were laid when I spotted a female bluebird perched nearby. Understandably she didn’t want to start sitting the eggs until they were all laid so as to have a uniform time of incubation. Sure enough, the day after the five eggs were present Mamma Bird was on the nest. As I approached I could see her head poking up in the slot entrance to espy intruders. When I pulled the door down, off she flew until I had inspected the clutch and then walked away. Bluebirds are very tolerant of inspection and handling of the nest by humans. I got Vikki to do one inspection, too:
So I will continue to watch and see the progress. MB started sitting the eggs either 3/25 or 3/26. I am eager to see if the male shows up–in my experience both birds usually help in feeding the nestlings.
I find watching the natural history of these birds surprisingly soothing. This ancient process, repeated billions of times, testifies to the eternal will to survive that fuels all of Nature. Our lives, even during a pandemic, have their own rhythm and fate as well. We often steal from our futures by trying to project our wants and fears onto a tapestry that we only faintly control. These little birds remind me to appreciate the beauty of simple pleasures and the grace of creation, mostly separate from all of humankind’s worries and scheming.
Wendell Berry speaks to these sentiments:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a timeFrom The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1999)
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.