Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Empty Bird Box


“You see these eggs? They’re brown. They’re no good.” He then threw the eggs across the gravel road that borders my property, into the newly planted corn field. “See this nest? It’s a sparrow’s nest. You don’t want this nest. They’re trash. I shoot sparrows. They’re not a native bird.” He then tore out the carefully constructed nesting material and also tossed it across the road towards the same area where the broken eggs laid in the corn field. He saw the look on my face. I was dumbfounded. First, he destroyed a living thing, if a bird’s nest could be called living. Also, he was presumptuous in deciding for me what birds are allowed on my property in my birdhouses. His name is Frank. Frank the Birdman. I had recently contracted with him to install a Purple Martin house on my open acre of land behind my house. I called him in today because the nor’easter of yesterday had permanently tilted the long pole which held the birdhouse he installed two weeks ago. I wanted him to fix it. I also arranged for a delivery of mulch. He looked at me and said “Don’t you want to be a good landlord to the right birds?” Of course I did want bluebirds in the four bluebird houses that lined my back yard. However, last year and this year the sparrows had taken over. It is not in my nature to destroy a living thing. I become upset whenever I see the chicken trucks that daily haul thousands of chickens to slaughter in this area of Delaware where I live. Frank turned to look at my other bluebird houses. I knew one at the other end of my property had birds ready to come out. I was trimming the grass around the base of the birdhouse on Sunday and I heard the baby birds making a noisy racket. They were ready to come out any day. He asked if there were sparrows in that bird box. I didn’t answer except to say “I don’t want to bother baby birds.” He looked at me like I just stepped off a space ship. I could surmise what he was thinking: “Oh, one of those bleeding hearts.” He told me that sparrows and starlings are not native to this country and are driving out the native species. He said I needed to see a dead bluebird on her nest then perhaps I would change my mind. I changed the subject. I gave him his check for the mulch delivery. He said he would be back later in the afternoon to fix the Purple Martin House bird pole. After he left, I checked the bluebird house that housed the baby sparrows. First, I tapped on the box. No sound. Then I ever so slowly opened the front of the box. Five baby sparrows were revealed to me. They were motionless. I thought perhaps they were taking a nap. But I knew better. Baby birds, when they’re about to leave the nest, make lot of noise because they’re hungry and anxious to go. I closed the door and went back to my shed to do some chores. I couldn't get the baby birds off of my mind. I looked back at the bird house to see if the parents came back. They were there, sitting on top of the bird box. Still, there was no cacophony of noise from the inside the bird box. Curious, I went back and again slowly opened the front door to the bird box so as not to disturb the baby birds inside. They were in the same position. I looked closely to see if they were breathing. I could not detect if they were breathing. One baby bird was at the top with it mouth partly opened. I got a small stick and gently pressed it. It did not move. Then I gently lifted the small frame of the baby bird. Still no movement. Lifting the bird, I saw four other smaller baby birds below in the nesting. They did not move either. The nest had a foul damp smell. They were all dead. They probably died by drowning yesterday during the nor’easter. Frank the Birdman would be pleased.

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