Nature Notes

As I write this I'm listening to the eerie sound of a cicada chorus. Brood II has certainly lived up to expectations, to the delight of some of our nuns and the absolute horror of others. Everything is covered in cicada skins or cicadas in various stages of development....even our monastery walls (exterior, that is!). The noise is absolutely deafening and we've already had one episode of a stowaway cicada ending up in the novitiate.

A week ago some of the sisters braved the heat to check on our nesting Robins and Chickadees. The robins hatched on Memorial Day and we've seen two tiny beaks peeking over the rim of their nest. They fledged a few days ago and we have seen a few juvenile Robins around. However, with three nesting pairs of Robins we can't be sure who belongs to whom! Meanwhile, Mama Robin has been busy building a second nest for her next brood (in the neighboring pear tree).

The chickadees built a nest in our orchard bird house. This particular pair of chickadees has nested every year (not always successfully) in our orchard. Every year the peach tree branch that held their cavity would end up being cut down and every year they would find a new cavity in the peach tree (except for one year when they tried nesting in a metal post in the vineyard!) This year we decided to give them a home of their own with a bird box.

Their babies hatched quite awhile ago and were already flying up to the hole of their nest box. We hadn't seen the parents visit with caterpillars for awhile so, thinking that the birds had fledged, we went to open up the house to see the moss nest. As soon as the front was lifted up out shot a baby bird! While one sister ran to rescue it from Sabina (it was fine) a second baby flew out the hole into the Robin's pear tree! One sister stood covering the nest hole so the remaining two babies would stay put while another sister ran to recover the escapees. The babies would have been fine since they were clearly old enough to be flying around outside of the nest, but we felt better leaving them as we had found them--in the nest. Despite our best attempts, three babies fledged and mom and dad went around keeping track of everyone. Baby #2 was scooped up from the pear tree and refused to return to the nest. Instead it preferred to sit on Sister's hand. It was very content and completely without fear. It gave little contact calls to its siblings and parents, it attempted some preening, but mostly it just sat serenely in sister's hand looking at her. Eventually sister was able to unseat her new little friend (named Chicky). We hope he will remember us and come back next year to start a family of his own.