Mrs. Robin builds a nest – a lesson in perseverance

Mrs. Robin builds a nest – a lesson in perseverance April 26, 2014
Mrs. Robin worked all morning on Thursday to build a nest in the  neighbor’s window sill. When I left the house at noon she’d made great progress. By the afternoon, it was all gone.

There’s a robin building a next in the window of our neighbor’s house. I suppose “building” is an optimistic word; she’s desperately trying to build a nest without much success.

We live in a village where the houses are separated by a single car driveway, so close that, if we were so inclined (which I’m not), we could talk to each other without leaving the house. I’ve had a front row seat to Mrs. Robin’s construction attempts over the last week and it’s been a lesson in failure and perseverance.

I followed along with her hard work on Thursday, cheering her on as twig by twig, mud clod by mud clod, as the nest began to take form on a window sill on the second floor of the house, which is currently empty.

Then I mourned with her as the nest was blown away by the afternoon.

By 3:45 PM, all of Mrs. Robin’s efforts were blown away.

Over the years, there’s almost always been a robin’s nest in that same windowsill, and especially the last few years when the house has been empty. We’re not sure why Mrs. Robin is having so much trouble this spring – or why she keeps going back again and again to the scene of the failure.

But this morning, darling husband noticed that she’d picked a new spot to build, this time in the window of our garage – with the same results. Evidence of a failed nest was hanging from the sill and strewn across the driveway. I recognized some of the materials Mrs. Robin had used in the last nest, including a long strip of bright blue ribbon.

This morning, we found evidence that Mrs. Robin had made an attempt at building a nest in the second story window of our garage.

As I inspected the damage, I noticed similar evidence of a nest attempt on the back windows of my neighbor’s house. Clearly Mrs. Robin wasn’t giving up. When one nest failed, she simply packed up shop and tried another place. She has eggs to lay and it seems she’s determined to lay them within 10 feet of my kitchen window.

Darling husband was the one who first noticed Mrs. Robin early last week and has been lamenting that he wished he could help her. We’ve had a morning dove nest every spring in the back window of our garage, taking advantage of a hole in a window screen to create a protected home for her baby. Darling husband suggested putting up a similar small screen to shield the window sill and give Mrs. Robin a helping hand.

Mrs. Morning Dove found the perfect place to build a nest, in between the window and screen in the garage attic window over the chicken coop, out of the way of the dogs and supported by the old window screen.

At first, I was against the idea. I think God created birds to adapt to these kinds of situations. In fact, when the myriad birds that have nested in the trees over our house start attempting to fly, our grass is littered with nestlings who’ve taken flight and plopped in our yard. Urged on by their mothers, they hop, peep, and scramble to find shelter in the berry bushes or the jungle of lily greens. Every year, some of these nestlings end up prey for the grackles and a hawk – or our dogs. There’s plenty of shelter in our yard, but there have been times when I’ve come out in the morning and been greeted by a bloodbath of headless sparrows.

The circle of life is a gruesome thing.

Then again, Mrs. Robin is having a more difficult time than I’ve ever seen a robin have. I haven’t noticed a Mr. Robin anywhere. Maybe she’s on her own and would appreciate a little assistance.

I suspected that darling husband, who is a big softie, would offer a helping human hand. After noticing this morning’s nesting materials all over the driveway, he went out to tack up a piece of window screen this morning, just to give the window sill some cover. To his surprise, here’s what he found:

Mrs. Robin is back this morning for another attempt at our garage window.

Clearly, Mrs. Robin’s not giving up, with or without help. When she flew away to get more nesting material, darling husband went ahead and tacked up a small screen to keep her nest in place. “I’m not going to build the nest for her,” he said. “I just want to give her a fighting chance.”

She took the help. Over the morning, she’s been adding material to the nest. She’s switched out mud clods for moss clumps, but she’s still using that blue ribbon.

Darling husband added a small piece of screen to give support to the nest. Mrs. Robin is clearly grateful for the help. She’s been building all morning, and despite the increasing winds she hasn’t lost a twig.

I’ve heard that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, and at first glance Mrs. Robin’s efforts fit that definition. But in reality, each nest attempt was just a bit different – in a different corner of the same sill, on a different sill on the same side of the house, in a different window on our house, different materials. The small helping hand darling husband gave her may be just the missing piece she’s needed this week to accomplish her task.

I expect if the nest is successful, we’ll see eggs soon. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I think there’s a lesson in perseverance there for Mrs. Robin’s human friends.

Follow along with Mrs. Robin and her eggs!


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