A lot, and nothing at all, has happened since my last post at the end of February 2020. Like everyone else on this oasis we call Earth, I’m adjusting to a new normal.
I decided writing about the “virus” would be just more of the same and better stated by others. So humor me while I share with you a little life story I’m following.
Nearly every morning I walk trails on thousands of acres behind my home. Juniper, piñon, grasses, chamisa, and cactus flourish in the New Mexico high mountain desert landscape. The cholla cactus in the image is where my story begins.
Cholla are popular nesting sites for birds. The thorny spines deter most predators. I often search them for nests. Sure enough, a bird built a nest in this cholla. It’s well hidden behind branches on the left side of the cholla. When I first find the nest, five lovely eggs present themselves.
Earlier this spring I had tracked a nest which lost part of its precious inhabitants to the last freeze of the year, then finally to predators which tore the nest apart. I fear the same fate awaited this nest. My next peek into the nest seemed to confirm my fears. Only 4 eggs remain.
The cholla grows about 20 feet from the nearest trail. Few people walk the trail, even fewer wander from it. A patch of scalloped phacelia, a plant which grows about 16-inches high, surrounds the cactus and bears prickly leaves that snag clothing. Once I know about the nest I am drawn to it. Would there be babies? May 1, I find out. The eggs have hatched and four babies huddle together. By many standards, baby birds could be considered ugly and these are no exception. But, I’m hooked on these little birds. Would they survive to some day fly?
The parents quickly vacate the nest when I approach on my next visit. I still don’t know what species the birds are. I spend upwards of two or three minutes carefully pointing my camera between cactus thorns to make images before I move on. No need to add undue stress to this family. Nature is hard enough on life as it is. I am relieved to find the babies are intact and developing feathers.
This last image I made 3 days ago. Fully alert to my presence, the babies make no sudden moves, nor do I (for one thing that would assure I’d be speared by the cholla). The parents have diligently cleaned house all this time, and baby bird droppings plaster the outside of the nest. The babies changed dramatically in just a few days. They’re downright cute.
Another few days and I will visit the nest a final time. I vacillate between hoping the babies still huddle together, and hoping I get to see them make the first leap beyond their cholla. They may even be gone without a final good-bye. After all, I am the sentimental one, and it is they who have a brand new world to explore.