The birds

    There’s been an uptick in bird activity in the last couple of days; people with insomnia will have noticed that their songs are beginning around three in the morning, if it’s not raining too hard. The birds are also pairing up, like these robins.

    I stalked them for a silly amount of time, trying to get a shot of them building their nest. But this only revealed that I have nowhere near the patience, skill, or equipment needed for nature photography. I had to settle for this photo, of them trying to look casual.

    It only takes a couple of days for robins to get their nests together, and they all seem to do it at exactly the same time. This is embarrassing, but at this time of year I always have the urge to salt the garden with little pieces of yarn, fluff from cushions, and other material that if I were a bird I think I would like for my nest. I have done this many times, despite having no sign that the robins need any assistance building their nests, and every indication that they have the process completely under control. If they can build a home-with no hands! My hubris puzzles even me. Nature doesn’t need me; if anything I’m just in the way, so why can’t I leave the birds alone?

    Most Philly birds use a variety of construction materials, and urban nests can resemble wads of trash as much as anything else, which maybe is good camouflage. Having examined many old nests, it seems that the preferred building material for a number of species is the colored strip of plastic that pulls open the cellophane on a pack of cigarettes. The unraveled fibers from blue tarps are also abundant, along with shreds of the ubiquitous Thank You plastic bag. The birds know what they are doing. Most species will raise two sets of offspring before midsummer, and even bulging with fledglings, the nests don’t fail. They can often stay intact for years after being abandoned, without any of my help.

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