As chores go, this one’s not so bad.
Last year, the school I taught at installed a bluebird trail on campus. The property on which the school sits is fairly large–big enough to host four bird houses at least 100 yards apart along the southern border. When you factor in the distance it sits from the school, it’s about a half-mile to walk the entire thing. I no longer teach at this school, but as a coach I spend a day or two each week there. Today was just such a day.
Today has been fairly warm, with temperatures in the low 60s and a light breeze blowing from the south. I had a bit of extra time, so I decided to do a check of the boxes to make sure they are ready for the spring nesting season. I decided to start with the farthest box, and headed out the door in that direction.
The first box had the beginning of a nest! I’m not good enough with birds to know the type of nest, but given its location I knew it was one of the small cavity nesters, probably a chickadee or bluebird.
The second box was empty, and the third had a massive wasp nest, left over from last fall. After cleaning out that third box, I headed toward the fourth.
When I open one of the nesting boxes, I stand off to the side, just in case it’s occupied. If it’s occupied, the bird will typically stay on the nest in defense of the eggs, but sometimes it bursts out of the hole as soon as it senses my presence. After nearly suffering a heart attack a few times, I’ve learned to prepare for that otherwise-startling experience.
As I opened the fourth box, nothing flew out. I exhaled, laughing at the realization that I’d been holding my breath, and tilted the box liner forward.
It wasn’t expected, which made the experience all the better. Sitting in the matted bowl of grass was a single chickadee egg. Not much more than a half-inch long, and white with tiny brown spots, it sat there, a miracle in miniature. I snapped a quick picture, tucked the liner back into the house, and snapped the front of the box closed.
If my experience is any guide, the next time I check there will be 4 or 5 eggs in there, with a doting parent providing warmth during these springtime temperatures. Given a dose of luck, the eggs will hatch and I’ll be blessed with the experience of new life in a few weeks.
No, as chores go, checking the bluebird trail isn’t too bad.