A Bird's Eye View
Where's the Mockingbird's Nest?
By Michael Givant
I had been casually watching mockingbirds around our house for several weeks. "Mockers," as I refer to them, get their name from being able to imitate an impressively large number of sounds. They are 11-inch, dun and gray birds with white on their wings and long tails. First, one at a time, they came onto our patio aggressively walking around looking for something to eat. One day my wife heard a loud bird noise, which I'd gotten used to, by then. This noise however was different. A "mocker" with its wings flashing white, made loud plaintive sounds, as it landed on the branch of our pine tree. Its mouth opened and closed, appearing to be yellow inside. While I'd seen other bird's nestlings, which are nest bound birds, crying to be fed, I'd never seen a mockingbird fledgling, which is out of the nest and can appear to be almost the size of an adult, crying out for food.
Early the next morning a adult mocker makes its way to the back of our lawn where it works the perimeter of our flowerbed pecking away, seemingly breakfasting, on insects. Each time, the bird raises its wings with the whites flashing. This is thought supposedly to flush out insects and apparently does so. It goes to the railing making a "kissing" sound. I had first thought that the sound was a "follow me " call. Now I wondered if it wasn't to reassure a nestling in a nearby unseen nest that "mommy or daddy is here."
Minutes later an adult mocker flies into the pine tree across the street, stays about 45 seconds and flies out. It's the right sort of tree and the right height for a nest to be. Did this guy just deliver a tasty morsel to a hungry mouth? A scant two minutes later another adult goes into the tree. A "kissing" sound again comes from the tree. The bird quickly flies out. Is there a nest in that tree with a hungry nestling demanding more?
Very cautiously I go over to the tree with a pair of high power binoculars. I don't want to scare anything that may be in there or irritate a returning adult. The opening, significantly higher than I am tall is very dark inside. It seems to be at the joint of a branch. I do see some twigs, which might be part of a nest or might simply have fallen from above. Beyond is what looks like a mass, which I'd like to believe is a nest but may merely be shadow. This is a promising location but I've got no eyeball proof.
Over the next two weeks I see them flying into the pine tree always in the same spot, between the fourth and fifth set of branches on its right side. They are like actors entering front stage from the wings. I've got a great view from the rear but like some stage-door-Johnny, can't get a glimpse of what they are doing onstage. That night in deep twilight an adult mocker is on the metal fence looking down languidly. As would an actor, after a performance, the bird is taking a bow for a scene that I assume I will never see.
The pine tree with the supposed nest is across the street from a window on our second floor where, the next day, I'm riding my exercise bike. Out of the corner of my eye I see what I think is a glimmering brown leaf, illuminated by the sun, in the opening of the tree where the nest might be. An adult mocker flies into the space between the fourth and fifth branches right there! There's movement inside. The mocker leaves and I get out my binoculars. It looks like twigs but are they random twigs or are they part of a nest?
Through my telescope I can see the leaf, actually two of them, moving. Wait! The leaf is a golden-yellow, wide open, triangular shaped mouth atop a taut, stretched neck. And it's not two but three mockingbird nestlings, begging to be fed. The adults are flying in and out nearly every five minutes and they aren't staying but leaving in less, much less, than a minute. I had previously noted that the adults would enter and stay longer. Other times they wouldn't come out. Now I understand why - they'd probably been incubating eggs. I set up my telescope as the bike room now became command central of the mockingbird watch. For much of the day, starting early in the morning, for the next nine days, it would be so. One of the room's windows is directly across from the nest. No other house has this view and no window in the house has as good a view. With loge center seats, I'm a stage-door-Johnny no more.