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Bluebird perched atop feeder./Photo by Jill Weatherly.

JACK WEATHERLY — News from the backyard: bluebirds!


Our backyard is an aviary. No, make that a sanctuary. The birds are free to come and go as they please. And there are plenty of them, a wide variety. (I won’t use that ruined word, “diversity.”)

We feed them and provide a birdbath, so they hang around.

Oh, yes, this is what a business writer can do when he’s working at home during this terrible plague. Have you looked at what sportswriters are getting paid for these days? Often, it ain’t got nothing to do with sports.

The news from my backyard is that for the first time we have bluebirds.

For them, we have two houses about four feet off the ground.

Like bright azure ribbons clipped from the heavens, they appeared early in the spring, floating and darting around from feeder to limb.

Then, to our delight and amazement, they hung around.

The more-intensely colored male and his subtler mate built a nest in one of two bluebird houses.

On March 24, we discovered four blue eggs! Our first success in all the houses we two birds have lived in.

The latest clutch of eggs./Photo by Jill Weatherly

Two weeks later, we had three hatchlings.

Then on April 21, the offspring were gone. Just gone. No fanfare. No abortive attempts to fly, no nothing. At least we didn’t see anything like that.

We had the empty-nest syndrome.

Then after a week or so – miracle of miracles! – the fledglings reappeared.

Failure to launch, maybe, but they were back, slightly wobbly and as spotted as fawns.

They interacted with their parents. At times, we see the five of them together in the basket feeder hanging from a steel shepherd’s-crook-shaped staff.

Mom and Pop started checking out the old homestead. Just curious, or for whatever reason.

But nature always has a reason.

And here it was: the adults started rebuilding (we had tossed the old nest), and, I believe, the kids were helping.

Now we have another generation on the way. Four more eggs.

We had read that the Sialia sialis sometimes did that sort of thing.

This was not the only learning experience for us.

There is competition in this avian world, of course. There are what we anthropomorphically considered bullies.

Want to venture a guess as to who is the bully king? Bluejays? Good Guess. Robins, maybe. But no.

Try the mockingbirds.

Yep, those birds of legend and lore. And fact. The mockingbird is well-named, having the ability to mimic upwards of 200 other species, and even car alarms, I read.

Even before Harper Lee used it in the title of her novel, I and many another Southern boy knew you were not supposed to shoot a mockingbird.

I confess that I did, and even mentioned that to my parents in a letter I sent to them in Memphis when my brother and I were spending our endless summers in the paradise of our paternal grandfather’s farm in central Mississippi.

It was the gun that made me do it. (That’s for the gun-control people.)

The BB gun.

Fast forward to this spring. I asked, almost pleaded with, my wife to find our son’s long unused Red Rider BB gun. I was ready to plug one of these bullies to protect our bluebirds.

But she refused to do it, not wanting to be an accomplice to murder.

Nature took its course, and now, with a family of five bluebirds, at least for now, the numbers seem to be with the little guys.

The parents seem heartened by the return of their offspring, at times even ganging up with the kids against the mockingbirds.

And now there are four more blue eggs in the rebuilt nest.

Nature is having its way. With a little encouragement, and maybe an air rifle.

» JACK WEATHERLY is a reporter at the Mississippi Business Journal. He can be reached at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com.


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About Jack Weatherly