Our mailbox seems to be irresistible to birds. A few years ago, a pair of birds, I’m not sure what kind, began building a nest in the mailbox outside our front door. We spoke to the mailman and requested that he leave the mail on a table on our front porch. He very kindly obliged and soon the birds laid their eggs. Sadly, our mailman took a brief vacation during which his substitute delivered a book from Amazon leaving nothing but scrambled eggs and heartache.
This year, a pair of wrens (I looked it up: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birding/backyard-bird-identifier/) began the tedious task of depositing small bits of grass, twigs, pine needles and other brown things in the mailbox. This time we posted a sign on the mailbox which read “Birds’ nest under construction” under which we hung a red basket intended for our mail. Randall, our mailman, again kindly obliged, and the birds soon got busy rearing a family.
It was always a little nerve racking to take the mail from the red basket, as we never knew when Mama Bird or Papa Bird was in residence. Frequently, one or the other would go screaming from the nest every time we got near the basket. The nest was a tunnel of sticks and things and we didn’t lay eyes on the babies until a few days ago. Each time an adult returned to the nest with some food, they were met with a chorus of tiny chirps, and we were given a glimpse of a small beak or two.
The past few nights, it’s been difficult to sleep due to the din coming from the bird parents. I imagined the Mama Bird nagging the Papa Bird about not bringing enough food home; or the Papa Bird complaining that the Mama Bird was not keeping the nest clean. Whatever it was, they certainly had a lot to say.
Yesterday, I happened to be walking by the front door when I noticed a little more activity than usual on the mailbox. Several small wrens with soft downy feathers sticking out at odd angles were perched on the edge of the box. I watched with glee as they flew for the first time, one after the other – six in all. I marveled that they all fit in our tiny mailbox. Eventually, five had taken flight and were clumsily flying around under the front porch roof, but one trepidatious bird stayed behind on the edge. I watched as he made false start after false start while his siblings ventured out from the porch into the front yard. I’m not sure if the clumsy bird really made the leap as much as he just fell off the mailbox. He made it safely to the ground and then was able to get to the kitchen window sill where I watched him for a while. Within about 15 minutes, he had joined his siblings out on the big world of the front yard.
Last night, I slept like a stone. I awoke this morning and peeked out the front door. I didn’t see any movement in the mailbox. On closer inspection, I found an empty mailbox, filled with egg shells and brown sticks and things. Though those chirping birds were really getting annoying, my heart is a little heavy today. An empty nest rehearsal.