Well, the Good News is that out of 4 eggs, Lucy the Dove managed to hatch two on Saturday. I learned two things from this experience:
1. The parents take turns sitting on the nest, with the male taking the night shift.
2. While the adults are softly colorful, baby Mourning Doves are black and fuzzy. Even by baby bird standards, they're odd looking. It made me laugh, recalling my childhood when I thought adults were calling them "Morning Doves". Made sense to me because they cooed in the morning. These little black birds looked as if they were wearing mourning attire.
How do I know what they look like? A couple of days after they were born, I "forgot" and opened the front door, making Lucy spread her wings and scurry away. I casually walked by, so she wouldn't freak out but she did pace back and forth in the yard until I went back inside. One of the eggs was gone and even though a 4th egg was present, Lucy had been pushing it further and further away.
I half expected the little Carolina Wren who has been darting around the porch lately to have a go at my head, but she was nowhere in sight. You see, SHE is usually the first one on the porch, building a nest in my first potted plant of Spring. I'd seen her flitting across the porch, glaring at Lucy for having dared take the spot she'd previously used to raise a brood. In fact a couple of weeks ago as I watered the plants on the front porch while Lucy was taking a break, Carolina the Wren kept fussing at me from the tree next to the porch. I stopped watering and began checking for a nest in the plants I'd just put out, yet found nothing. But she was angry!
Last week I found out why. We have a gas grill on the front porch, which we hadn't used for a couple of weeks because the tank needed refilling...and neither of us could remember to do so before the weekend, when the local hardware store closed. Hubby asked me to come look out the porch window because he said if I didn't see it, I wouldn't believe it. On the rack in front of the grill was a bag of wood chips for the smoker. And darting in and out of the bag, bugs in beak, was Carolina. I had no idea when I was watering that I was standing literally 18 inches from her home. We laughed that her kids had a room with a view, as the bag had a clear plastic pane in the front. She had finally chosen a spot so clever that we didn't know she was there until we watched one of her babies sit on the porch rail on wobbly legs as he blinked and took in his surroundings. He looked like a tiny drunk, unsure what to do next as he bobbed and weaved before figuring out that wings were for flying.
As had become habit, I glanced out the window yesterday morning to check on Lucy. I could never see the chicks from that vantage point, but she tolerated me and we'd stare at each other, almost eyeball to eyeball. But Lucy wasn't there. And neither were the kids. I rushed out on the porch only to discover both birdies and bad egg had disappeared. Hubby and I never heard a sound, and the nest is right outside our bedroom window. So whatever is feasting on eggs and birds is either extremely stealthy and/or quick. Hubby thinks a Rat Snake, I suspect the Owls. Either way, Daddy Bird got blamed as whatever happened, occurred on his shift. The chicks were too young to fly...I even checked to see if they'd somehow managed to fall out of the nest. Nothing. Lucy now paces in the yard, cooing. The term "mourning dove" is very appropriate.
So to date, the Mockingbird nest was raided for 4 eggs, Lucy lost a total of 4, yet our ever so sly Carolina Wren actually hatched a bird or two.
I'm thinking next year, I'll leave one flower pot empty...or use a fake plant until nesting season is over. I love the birds, but I do hate watching a plant die because I can't water it. Maybe I'll tuck a couple of paper bags in out of the way spots for our nesting crews.
At least Walter the Mockingbird is happy. He finally has the front porch back all to himself for those morning song concerts.