This morning I went to check on the mourning dove fledglings that were nesting on my balcony. Since April 23, Shakespeare’s birth/death day, I have been watching this nest, as first the mother came and laid two eggs, then watched the fledgings slowly emerge into sunlight. My research suggested they would be ready to leave the next Saturday, May 23. But it is Friday, May 22, and this morning, the two parent doves were investigating what was an empty nest. After they left, I took a closer look. In the nest was a lump of red something, resembling a dried date, and I worried it was gristle. Had a hawk come and devoured the babies in the night? All day I have opened and closed the sliding door, feeling sick. I examined the ground underneath, and the woods a bit, but found nothing. Now, about twelve hours after my discovery of the empty nest, I take another look. I can hear the mourning doves, somehwere in the woods, cooing, the parents, I think. Mourning.
Having spent the last month photographing the nest, posting the pictures on Instagram, getting positive responses, I wonder if I had somehow drawn attention to the nest? I had once seen three falcons circle and sweep by very close to the terrace, an unusual occurrence, but that had been over a week ago. Had the hawks been waiting all along, for the birds to fatten? How terrified the babies must have been. Had they first thought it was their mother, only to discover the truth?
What is the truth? An empty nest, a day or two too early, a pair of parents searching the terrace. Life is tragedy and comedy side by side, always. A falcon didn’t eat the baby birds out of meanness, just hunger, perhaps to feed its own children. Yet the smell of death lingers. I light incense, knowing I will check and recheck for the next two days. I cannot shake my sadness off, or the tears. I became too attached.
The wind is picking up. These baby birds survived torrential rain, wind, and even bitter cold. They made a home in a bare scrap of twigs on an open grid floor, open to the elements on three sides. I hear another bird chirping over the wind. Who knows what happened, after all?