Posts Tagged ‘Robin Watch 2012’

Perhaps you recall this year’s Baby Robin drama…

It began when I noticed a nest being constructed between a downspout and an eave.


Soon, the robins had laid their eggs, and just a couple of weeks ago,  they hatched.


We watched them the best we could – we of course didn’t want to disturb them, but even if we did, the parents were vigilant guards, perching on nearby branches and wires whenever we came near, squawking repeatedly and even swooping down towards us if it all became too much.

A week and a half ago, we checked on the babies on Sunday evening, and saw their little heads.



Monday morning:




What made it even sadder was that the parents were still around, perched, chirping, squawking and swooping. You have to wonder – what did they “think” – if anything?

I thought that was the end of it. I left the nest on the ground for the moment, intending to take it up later. Before I could do anything with it, the yard guys came and just put it back up atop the downspout.

Nice, I thought. But why?

The next day, I noticed that the parents were flying around with grass in their beaks – they were rebuilding the nest.

And now, a few days later – look at that.



They’re trying again. I had no idea that would happen.We will probably be in Japan  by the time they hatch – but depending on when that is (they say 12-14 days) – we might be back for part of the infancy, although my daughter will certainly be here and can keep us posted.

I just hope the hawk has moved on to other parts of the neighborhood….

(Six years ago, in our previous house, we had a fantastic view of the entire process, as robins built a nest on a window ledge. Here’s a post summarizing what we were privileged to witness.)


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— 1 —

Coming to you from Alabama, yes, but not Birmingham. It’s Auburn for us tonight, with an early morning obligation/opportunity tomorrow and then on to somewhere else for the afternoon and perhaps the next day as well. No more details until we see how it all works out – I’m sadly superstitious in that way – but if you want some sense of what’s happening, check out Instagram, particularly Instagram Stories. I tend to post things there.

— 2 —

The big news of late has been the tragic Ireland abortion referendum – which, in the end, is a referendum on the state of Catholicism as well. As disturbing as the referendum itself was, just as disturbing to me was the reaction of the supporters. Cheering and celebrating? Not unexpected, but certainly disgusting. There is a lot of insightful reading out there about the referendum, but two I’ll point out here are:

Breda O’Brien in the Irish Times:

Ireland has become a different place, not a more tolerant, open and respectful place, but a place with a heart closed to the ones who will die because they are not deemed human enough to be protected.

And a heart closed to the thousands of women who wish they lived in a society that cared enough to tackle the profound injustices such as poverty that force women to choose abortion, rather than proposing the ending of a life instead.

I knew we were in trouble months ago when a prominent journalist said she absolutely accepted the unborn was a baby, but that she felt a woman’s right to choose trumped that fact.

I waited for the outcry. Someone had just said that a baby must die to facilitate an adult’s choice. There was none. I felt an indescribable chill.

The next generation is our hope, not some kind of choice.  

Any movement that urges breaking the bond of intergenerational solidarity for ideological reasons, all while abandoning women to the coldness of individual choice, undermines all that is central to our humanity.

Nor did two-thirds of voters seem to understand the concept of equality, instead making ableist arguments. “How could a foetus be the equal of a fully grown woman?” ran the banal, unimaginative and clichéd argument.

They are not equal in cognitive ability, in power or in strength. Neither is a newborn baby or a three-year-old. The helplessness and defencelessness of new humans are designed to instil in us a passion to protect them from harm because they are equal to adults only in their common possession of humanity and their right to life.

— 3 —

And Darwin Catholic reminds us:

In the wake of the Irish referendum abolishing their constitutional protection of unborn children, some of have attempted to roll out the old: “Oh, don’t worry. Banning abortion doesn’t reduce abortions, it just makes people go elsewhere to get them.”

This “banning something doesn’t reduce it” argument is deployed by various people for various causes: Banning abortion doesn’t reduce abortion. Banning drugs doesn’t reduce drug use. Banning guns doesn’t reduce the number of guns available. Banning gambling doesn’t reduce gambling.

All of these are false. Making something illegal of course makes that thing less common. Honestly, if we believed that making something illegal had no effect on whether or not people did it, why would we make anything illegal? Why would we ban things like homicide and burglary if we thought that illegality had no effect on whether people do something.

— 4 —

I have such a long list of articles and links about matters digital and technological. Such a long list. Some related to the impact of all of this on our brains, many taking on assumptions about tech and education, and a growing number about Big Tech and information control. I keep going back to mid-century dystopian fiction, from Farenheit 451 to 1984 and then I ponder McCluhan, and I try to sort it out.

One of the minor points I ponder is the relationship of information tech to churches and evangelization. I have never been one to suggest that a Really True Evangelizing Disciple-Making Parish/Diocese must be All In with the Tech – is your parish on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/MySpace ? 

The far more important question, to me is – have you reached out to every single parish in your parish boundaries? Does everyone know about everything you offer? Is your parish aware of every homebound person living in its boundaries, is every household aware that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and worship of God are happening in your parish? 

Sure, I guess you can let them know about it through Facebook, right? But why not, you know, go knock on their doors instead? Be an actual living – IRL – presence in the life of the neighborhood?

Yeah, do both. Great! For sure have a decent parish webpage with MASS TIMES FRONT AND CENTER WITHOUT HAVING TO DOWNLOAD A PDF TO FIND THEM FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. But person-to-person comes first.

And do you know what? these tech entities are not your friend. 

The owner of the Babylon Bee sold it and has Words about Facebook and Google:

I fully realize that a major reason the Bee (and my webcomic, for that matter) was able to blow up like it did was because of social media — Facebook in particular. This is just how it goes when you make things for the internet: you create, you post to social media, you hope people like it and it spreads. But the power that Facebook held over me as a content creator began to make me very uneasy.

True crime fascinates me, and this is a comparison that often comes to mind: to become a successful content creator you have to use Facebook, and using Facebook, especially if you’re a Christian and/or a conservative, is sort of like going to a mafia loan shark for $10,000. They’re happy to give it to you, just like Facebook will gladly give you the opportunity for your content to go viral on their massive platform. But then, if it does, they own you. You have to conform to their rules and their worldview, and jump through every hoop they put in front of you, if you want to remain a successful content creator. It’s just like a loan from a local mob guy: sure, now you’ve got $10,000 in your hand, but you’re going to pay a high price in return. You’re going to have to alter whatever needs to be altered — even your worldview — to accommodate Facebook. If you miss a payment or step out of line, you’re going to get a beating. And if they ever decide you’re too much trouble, they’ll just shoot you. Facebook has the power to kill publishers, and they do, not only based on publishing techniques, but based on worldview. Just think about that.

This takes us into the bigger and scarier picture, which is that Facebook and Google have a practical duopoly on information. The web is where everyone gets information about everything, and they literally control what information the world sees. I could write a million words on this topic, but I won’t. I cover it regularly on CDR, and the CDR Manifesto speaks on it. Suffice it to say, my worldview combined with my job description gives me a unique vantage point from which to view the current state of things. As a follower of Christ, I am primarily concerned with glorifying God, loving my neighbor, and spreading the gospel. I’ve thought about this deeply and carefully, and I think the centralization of the internet is one of the greatest threats to the spread of the gospel, and the well-being of mankind, that we face today. Maybe the single biggest threat. It is tyranny over information. It’s a handful of people who are hostile to the Christian message and the plight of the individual deciding what’s good and bad, true and false. It’s never been seen before on this scale. I am no conspiracy theorist; never have been. From where I sit, this danger is as clear as day.

All of this is to say nothing about the long-term ramifications of the massive collection of personal data, or the incalculable intrapersonal effects social media is having on us.

— 5 —

If you only come here on Fridays, please check out my post from earlier in the week on the letters of St. Marie de l’Incarnation to her son, whom she left with relatives at the age of eleven, so she could join the Ursulines. The Cruelest of all Mothers. 

— 6 —

Several years ago (six), when we were still in the bungalow, some robins built a nest on the ledge right outside my window. It was glorious to be able to watch the babies hatch and then grow – and then hop and fly away. The blog posts about that – Robin Watch – are all under this category. 

Something similar has happened this year. It’s a different house, but robins have managed to find a space to build a nest – squeezed in between a rain spout and roof eaves. Fortunately (for us) it’s on a side of the house close enough to the ground that I can set up a step ladder and we can peak. My older son is tall enough to be able to see without assistance, but I can only spy with my phone camera – I can just hold it up there while the parents are away hunting worms, and take a quick snap. I think the photo on the left must have been just a day or so after they hatched and the second just three days later. We’ll see if they’re even still around when we get back.

— 7 —

 Coming in July:amy_welborn9


Signs and symbols…Bible stories…saints, heroes and history. 

More book reminders (for those who only come here on Fridays) – I’ve made How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist available as a free pdf here. 

(One of several free ebooks I have available)

And don’t forget Son #2’s Amazon author page and personal author page.  

He’s releasing his second collection of stories Friday- June 1.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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As you know, we recently hosted a Robin family on the ledge of a window of my room. They’ve been gone a couple of weeks now, but we still think and talk about them.  That first day after they all left was very quiet and just a bit sad.  They were separated from us by many degrees of species-dom and by a window, but there watching them was more like looking in a mirror than through glass.

— 1 —

"Amy Welborn"

Surprising, beautiful new life. 

The eggs weren’t laid on Easter, but it was on Easter that our neighbor pointed out, “We think you have a bird’s nest on your window!” – and so, it was the day on which we discovered these gorgeous, perfect eggs – Easter eggs.

— 2 —

"Amy Welborn"

Helpless and dependent.

And ugly.

Sorry. They were.  Not a judgment!

But, my goodness. That yellowish skin, rubberband necks and pretty scary eyes that dominated their little heads?

 "Amy Welborn"

Songbird babies are altricial  – that is, they are hatched completely helpless, in contrast to precocial (rooted in a word meaning “precocious”) birds who are hatched more matured and able to walk and obtain their own food, once it’s shown to them.

 See! You learned something!

Speaking of which…

— 3 —

"Amy Welborn"

4 days after the first two hatched.


As you can imagine, this was an amazing learning experience.  We watched, we observed, we wondered, we asked, and we learned.  The best life science class ever.

Why do the babies stay in the nest? How do they know? How do their feathers grow? When will they open their eyes? What do they eat? Will another animal come eat them? 

— 4 —

"Amy Welborn"

5 days old

"Amy Welborn"


Five days after the first two hatched, the change is amazing to see.  They’ve not just grown bigger, but are transforming.  What most fascinated me were the development of the wings – compare these with the little stubs they begin with – and the feathers.  It all happened so quickly, you can see why they must eat all the time..it almost looks painful.  It put in mind of horror movies where someone suffers strange attributes popping out all over his body.

"Amy Welborn"

7 days old

— 5 —

"Amy Welborn"

Feed me.

This photo says it all – all about parenting, don’t you think? Cross-species, at any age?

The parents were just as interesting to watch as the babies.  Both mother and father brought food, which was primarily worms and berries.  Joseph said he saw a bee being fed to them once.  If they were coming with food and saw one of us at the window, they wouldn’t land, but rather fly quickly away to a nearby branch.  They didn’t get too upset (in contrast to the mockingbirds at the front of the house, who regularly and violently chase after squirrels who venture too close to what I presume is a nest somewhere in a cluster of vines), but simply sat on that branch, waiting and chirping.  It seemed to me as if the adults definitely communicated vocally with each other when this happened, as if one was asking, “All clear?” and the other responding, “Not yet!”

"Amy Welborn"

(In order to get close-ups while they were feeding, what I did was to just set up a stepladder in front of the window. That way there was a standing structure there all the time which they could get accustomed to seeing as just part of the landscape.  If I saw that it was feeding time, I’d just stand on the ladder with my camera pointed down, and wait, never for very long.)

One of my readers reflected that this might be what we look like to God – always hungry, needy, begging.

— 6 —

"Amy Welborn"

12 days old

Trust your instincts

One of the most astonishing aspects of observing natural life, to be sure.  Such a mystery, this thing called instinct.

The instinct that tells them to crane their skinny elastic necks and open those beaks when they feel a jolt on the edge of the nest.  That tells them to stay put in that same nest, even as they crowd each other, must lie atop of each other and are slowly gaining the ability to move on their own. Still – they stay put.  All day, every day, they sit in the nest, little growing balls of fluff, waiting. As their eyes opened and they grew more aware, they began to watch for the parents, and follow their movements in the trees and on the ground.

"Amy Welborn"

But still, they remained. They knew it was not yet time to go.

(Except for the one that I’m thinking got blown out of the nest one blustery night a couple of days before this picture was taken…)

— 7 —

"Amy Welborn"

13 days after hatching, ready to fly away.

You’re ready. Go.

But then one day, like clockwork – or instinct – it is time to go.

I had worried about the baby birds before this day, because even though they waited with great patience most of the time, I could see their restlessness and watch them stretch and flap their wings.  I could see an accident happening, and that they weren’t quite ready to make it.

But then this day came – and they were.  As I wrote at the time, it took about 45 minutes.  One ventured to the edge of the nest, teetered a bit, then tumbled/flew to the ground.  Then the next, and finally, only this sibling was left. He remained in the nest alone for about ten minutes. He chirped, sat in the nest, popped up to the edge, then back down, then finally up – and down.

I could see them all for much of the rest of the day in the back yard, following one of their parents around, pecking at the ground.  I try to avoid anthropomorphizing the whole thing, but I swear, down there, those little ones really did seem…excited.

As if this is what they had been waiting for, as if this freedom to go, to be, to…fly – was what all the preparation, the resting, the growing, the endless eating, the watching and waiting had been all about.

Which, of course, it was.

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Well, that was fast. Within a matter of thirty minutes, the three remaining kids had taken their leave.

"Amy Welborn"

Empty nest.

I’ll have more later, because it was quite fascinating to observe.  But for now, here’s the last little fellow, wondering where everyone has gone.

"Amy Welborn"

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For those of you thinking….more birds? Really?  ….take heart.  They say that baby robins leave the nest at 13 days…almost there…

None of today’s photos really get across how big these suckers are.  Big and fluffy and increasingly active.  In fact, I watched one very carefully and tentatively edge out of the nest today, hop a bit on the ledge, and then get back in.

"Amy Welborn"

Ready to go.

I also think I see the inspiration for Angry Birds. Because they do look pretty angry.

"Amy Welborn"

Their awareness has increased quite a bit over the past two days.  Up to today, they were oblivious to us, but now they peer at us and react, so we’re extra careful in our movements. We don’t want to startle them into a premature tumble.

"Amy Welborn"

They’re also more aware of their parents.  Again, up until yesterday or so, they didn’t react to a parent until the bird had landed on the nest with the worm, bug or berry (I don’t know what kind, but over the past couple of days, as the ground has dried, far more berries than worms have been brought).  But no more.  Now they watch the parents fly about, perk up when they land on a nearby branch, and stare expectantly until food arrives.

"Amy Welborn"

I really hope I can grab one more feeding shot before they go.  The babies are so big now that when they stretch up to their demanding height, they’re as tall as their parent.  He or she pops whatever the snack is into the waiting mouths, but they’re not satisfied, and they stay upright, beaks agape, chirruping really loudly, right in Dad or Mom’s face. Who, for their part, just sits there for a minute, listening.  I think we can all probably read their weary parent minds, don’t you think?

(Actually what they’re waiting for is..er..business to be conducted.  Another rather interesting life lesson.  As soon as a baby bird eats, he produces from the other end. Like – immediately.  So..now you’re thinking this through, right? How come the nest isn’t just a filthy mess, then? Because the feeding parent waits, and takes away the refuse, which is in a white sac – you can read about it here.  An action which produced great hilarity and horror, both, when it was first witnessed here. Learn something every day, eh?) 

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I don’t have a video camera. But then I remembered that I have an IPad. Which has a video camera.  So here you go:

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…oh dear.

The nest did look a little emptier this morning, but it was hard to tell for certain, since the birds live in a fluffy pile. "Amy Welborn"

But then Dad appeared, and there was no question:

"Amy Welborn"

"Amy Welborn"

"Amy Welborn"

Mom appeared at the same time, which was interesting:

"Amy Welborn"

Dad, looking thoughtful.  Kids today.

"Amy Welborn"

(Click on any of the photos for a larger version, in which you can see great detail.)

It’s been quite windy here the last twenty-four hours, and they are starting to work those wings.  I predict we might lose another one today. Not looking forward to this after-school conversation.

I’ll go outside in a minute and look around on the ground, just out of curiosity.  There’s really nothing I can do, the parents apparently do try to care for a fledgling that’s still around, so….

Circle of life and all that, right?

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"Amy Welborn"


Getting crowded. I swear, I don’t know how this is going to work – another day or two, how are they all going to fit? And when they start moving around more…well, just say that I’ve researched “baby birds falling out of the nest.” There’s really nothing I can do considering I can’t actually return the baby to the nest.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that…..

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These guys haven’t even been hatched a week.  The change is astonishing to me.

The guy dominating the nest is obviously the first to hatch. There were two that first day, but this one is bigger even than the next smallest one.

"Amy Welborn"

Moving closer, you can really see how his skin is transforming.  When they first hatched they were pink all over. No more.  Almost reptilian-looking.

"Amy Welborn"


A halfway-decent wing shot.

"Amy Welborn"


"Amy Welborn"

Zillionth meal of the day.

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They’re growing.  I hope I can get some good shots tomorrow, especially of those developing wings,  but I had a lot of work to do today.

I confess to being almost freaked out by their rate of growth – and the fact that’s it’s not just growth, but development of new features. Especially those wings.  I’ll say it again. It’s the stuff of horror films, really.  I keep thinking of The Fly. 

"Amy Welborn"

The head sticking out to the right is one of the two oldest.

"Amy Welborn"



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