Sheltered Islander: This Love Affair Is for the Birds

Do you smell Old Spice?
Do you smell Old Spice? Photo: PrinPrince/iStock/Thinkstock

It was a cool evening on the Island. Mother and I were having Xanax and wine for dinner. We know you shouldn’t mix wine and tranquilizers, but we were out of whiskey. We were emotionally exhausted. Two deaths on our heads, with the prospect of more. It’s an old story here.

About three weeks ago, a pair of birds tried building a nest in the eaves of the porch. Because of Mother’s seven cats, we wrecked the nest and splashed aftershave on the wood. But these birds ignored the cats and now have a nest that smells like Old Spice. The nest is eye-level from Mother’s kitchen window so we can see everything, but so can the cats. They sit in a group by the window, their heads swiveling back and forth, like people watching a tennis match. Sometimes they circle around under the nest like sharks waiting for a tasty diver. We put bells on the cats, but they popped out of the breakaway collars in a day.

The second week, Mamabird sat in the nest constantly, so we knew she had eggs. After about five days, we heard peeping and saw four baby beaks bobbing up and down. Exhausted parents flew in relay carrying moths and bugs to the insatiable young. Mother worried they were not taking care of themselves. She baked cornbread with birdseed as a treat and put it on the eave for them. We took turns monitoring the cats and the birds. We were wracked with anxiety.

At the start of the third week, Missy the cat brought in a dead baby bird. Mother yelled at her and withheld her Meow Mix with the soft salmon centers from her. The next day we saw another feathered baby fall from the nest and land within paws length of Orlando, the big sleeping tuxedo cat. He opened one eye, decided he didn’t want feathers in his teeth, and went back to sleep while we swung into action to get this baby back in that g-damn nest! Our hearts were pounding, but he seemed okay.

A few days later, it was solo flight day. We watched in terror, the cats watched in anticipation, as Mamabird and Papabird called to the kids from the clothesline about 15 feet away. One made it, then two. Number three flew a little, then fluttered to the ground. Mother held off the cats, I ran for a plastic bowl. Mother put the baby in the bowl and lifted him to the clothesline. His family had flown into the brush. He sat on the line, his Mama came to him, and together, they flew off. The next day, Audrey brought in a baby bird. Two dead. We were crushed.

That was a week ago. The bird couple are back, and building another nest in a different eave. That means another round of worry and fear. So, here we are, eating shrimp and Xanax, drinking wine, and swearing not to get involved in bird problems anymore. Maybe they use cats to thin the herd…who knows?

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