John Hall frequently photographs his mid-Missouri surroundings, and he has been sharing his images with the Missourian for several years. Hall was also recently featured in a Columbia Missourian article, in which he reminisced about his days as a batboy in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri Baseball League.
The birds of the rookery were beginning to chatter when I landed on the back deck at 4:10 a.m. today. I listened intently until I heard the unmistakable sound of Mr. Bluebird. I told him to hang on while I did my other chore of dog walking. I saddled up one dog at a time and took a short trip with each. Guess who went along? Yep, Mr. Bluebird flew overhead and would rest high atop the electric wires that lined my dog route. He'd let me know he was around by his distinctive voice.
While walking the dogs I spotted Thomas Katt, better known as a night stalker. He was coming in from a night of whatever he could find to do in the neighborhood and wasn't in the best of moods. He was hungry. He wanted in his house, but his owners weren't home, so he had to wait for the cat-sitter to show up.
Meanwhile, it was back to the tomato patch which is the home of the bluebird clan. Mr. Bluebird was waiting for my arrival, sitting patiently in the apricot tree. I knew his children were still asleep so I put some worms in the bowl for his breakfast and went for my cup of coffee. As I stood filling the bowl with worms, old Barney Owl swooped down over my head and headed to the locust grove across the street. I heard Mr. Bluebird exclaim, "That was a close call."
Hurriedly, I went inside to get a cup of coffee and came out just in time to see the truth in the adage that the early bird gets the worm. In fact, the early rising robin ate about 30 of them in my less than one minute trip to the house. Mr. Bluebird wasn't happy about having someone eat his breakfast, but I told him not to worry, I'd take care of him. I told him that before doing that, however, I was going to take some baby pictures, and the first six in the selection are of the four offspring who will never know their mother other than what their dad relates to them.
After feeding the birds, my son arrived to have an early morning discussion with his mother about Gaillardia (Indian blanket) and black-eyed Susans. So, I went out and took some photos of that patch. I took a few other photos and then moved back inside as Miss Banshee and Skye were discussing the bummer of the day that started early — it was her day to go home with my son. They all like staying with me more than anything. But, tomorrow Miss Banshee will be back about 6 a.m. and Skye will stay the day with my son unless its Thor's turn.
Finally, I sat down on the porch to finish my coffee and listen to the early morning news, and Mr. Spider was either interested in what I was drinking or the weather forecast. When it was forecast to be in the 90s today, I heard Mr. Bluebird groan. Because his children's home is in full sunshine, he didn't know what to do. I told him I'd move the nest about 10 feet to the right so it wouldn't be in the sun if he'd like that. He encouraged me to do it and didn't fuss as I moved it into the shade. After setting up the site exactly as it had been, I put some more worms on the hot platter and they danced like a cat on a hot tin roof. Mr. Bluebird came over about five seconds later and thanked me, grabbed a mouth full of hot worms and was feeding again as if the nest had never been moved.
(If you can't see the slideshow embedded above, view it on Flickr here.)
Some of you might think I'm relieved because the little birds seem about ready to leave the nest. However, when they leave the nest it doesn't mean they leave the area. Little birds will follow their parents for a number of days, even weeks to learn the ways of being an independent bird. With only one parent to look after four little ones, the job isn't going to be easy. So, I'll be on predator watch and supplying Mr. Bluebird with supplemental food for some time. Anyone wishing to join me in this odyssey can show up in my backyard any time after 5 a.m. for there is still much to do.
Big development in the bluebird world at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. I went out for the hourly feeding and saw movement on the ground near the hosta patch and my dad's tombstone. It was a baby bluebird after its maiden flight and crash landing. I went to the nest, and only one remained. The remaining bird didn't know whether to "jump or go blind." Dad was busy keeping an eye on the other three. I took more food to the pan, and Pop Bluebird took off with some worms in search of the three recent escapees. He came back shortly and took a couple to the nest for the youngest who doesn't want to leave the comfort of home.
About that time my dogs wanted out. I have a little female English cocker spaniel who would like nothing better than to round up those little guys and end their lives right there. The other English cocker, which my son calls Jethroe Bodine, wouldn't kill one on purpose but might accidentally smash one with his big paw.
In recent minutes I spied two bluebirds in the pine tree in the neighbor's yard. That is where Thomas Katt lives, and he'd like fresh bluebird meat for supper or even a late-night snack. If I don't keep an eye out, he's liable to have a couple "over easy" for breakfast in the morning. So I'll be up late tonight and early in the morning to protect the little ones I adopted. They are 21 now (days that is) but still need a lot of parental supervision. When I found one under the hosta plant he looked up at me as if to ask, "What have I gotten myself into?" I have some photos of that which will be shared in a day or so.
Now, back to the real-life adventure of Mr. Bluebird and three children on the loose, as well as a fourth one who prefers to stay right where he is.
This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.