Woohoo! My wish was granted! The four little feathered ones were still in the nest box when we returned from our week of Cape May birding. I peeked in on my phone, like every ten minutes—the whole trip home—with fingers crossed.
Once home, I didn’t bother to unload anything from the car that wasn’t a camera. Though I did say a long mutually affectionate hello to the cat while keeping my eye on the nest through the window. We’d been home less than thirty minutes when the hatchlings started teasing us about leaving—filling the box opening with their prehistoric faces, surveying the possibilities. In addition to the two video cameras it was my intention to shoot stills with the 150-600mm but I had to give up on that as the evening dimmed. It would be three hours before one of them finally summoned the courage to leap—leaving the only home they’d known, madly flapping inexperienced wings. Within about five minutes, one, two and three each enjoyed the gift of flight and met up with mom and dad in a nearby Black Walnut tree. It was about 7:45 pm.
Then, there was the Last One. There’s always a Last One. Last Ones can take hours to leave the nest box. In this case it took twenty-freakin’-one of them! Our previous record as eleven hours. As usual, it was the runt of the brood, likely the last to have been laid and hatch, but I guess when your four days younger than the first-born, another day’s grace isn’t too much to ask really. Besides, why jump out into the cold, windy night. To sleep huddled on a branch? It was, understandably, content where it was.
The next morning I first checked at 5:30am, and then regularly throughout the day. Being able to observe on my phone I had a pretty good idea of when the little stinker was simply not going—when it was lounging in the now roomy comfort of the nearly emptied nest and still had doting parents bringing in fresh food and taking out the messes.
With it’s perplexed little face poking out the box at 6:00 am, I set up the cameras to capture the event. But it still wasn’t time. And wouldn’t be for almost the whole day ahead. But because I was never sure if any fluttered leap to the window was its last, I too was jumping up and down—abandoning tasks and meals—to record hour after hour of false alarms. Finally around 4:15 Saturday afternoon, almost a full day after its siblings, reluctant number four vaulted out into its new universe and joined the family in a nearby Maple. Jack and I snapped a few portraits of all of them for the family album.
I’ve witnessed almost twenty broods fledge in the past six years. It never gets old. Hopefully we’ll get to watch all four of these little balls of feathers and sass grow and prosper—as we wait to welcome another batch next month?