Misadventures with birds in the backyard

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The world is going to the birds. Or at least my little corner of it is. And I think this is just… ducky.

Nests surround me, sometimes in the most unexpected of places.

But not always.

We have a birdhouse in our backyard. We inherited it from the previous owners (humans, not avian). It is made out of wood and was a dull (and rather drab) brown. It sat in the garden, empty, for more than a decade.

A couple years ago, I painted it a sunny shade of yellow with a bright and friendly red door. I also cleaned out a mess of twigs and feathers from inside and realized why no self-respecting bird had ever nested in it during our tenure. It was too full. But I took care of that. My cheerful house beckoned the backyard birds — or maybe not.

Clean or not it still sat empty.

Until this year, an energetic itty-bitty bird found the house and made a zealous commotion of building her nest in it. She flitted in and out of the tiny hole that serves as the house’s real door (the red one is just for show) carrying sticks, leaves and other nest-making materials in her beak. She was a busy little bird.

Busy, but messy. A couple days after I witnessed her fervent activity, I took a peek at the birdhouse to check for signs of bird activity. The round entrance hole was augmented by sticks protruding from the interior of the house. Apparently the little bird tried to get them into her abode but they were too large so she just left them there — sticks sticking out.

I’m currently waiting for her to emerge with baby birds — as I am with birds from a second nest in the yard.

We have two ladders that lean up against a storage shed. Earlier this spring, my husband was returning one ladder to its spot and detected unexpected movement in his peripheral vision. He turned to discover he was eye-to-eye and mere inches away from a robin. She was sitting in a nest, which she’d nestled into the corner of the top rung of the other ladder.

She didn’t move, but continued to give him a stare-down while he backed away.

We returned to the site later in the day to see if we could get a photo of the bird in the nest on the ladder, but she wasn’t there. I was curious about the eggs and thought they might be photo-worthy. I climbed up the second ladder to get a better look. Just as I leaned over to take a peek, there was a rustle in the trees behind me and the adult robin (mama or daddy, who knows?) dived-bombed straight toward yours truly. I felt the whoosh of the bird’s wings and ducked; it must have been inches from my head. The robin was mad.

And deservedly so, I was messing with its nest and that isn’t nice. I apologize for my brazen behavior.

The next few moments were all instinct — for me and the robin. I jumped down from the ladder faster than you can say, "Early bird," and got my dive-bomb-worthy head away from there. The robin, presumably, returned to her perch.

I haven’t (returned, that is); although I’ve wanted to. I don’t want to traumatize the birds any more than necessary — and vice versa for that matter. Although I think we’ve both probably already gone beyond that. Being dive-bombed once a summer is enough for me.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.