When we moved into our house in San Antonio back in 2005 we planted two peach trees. We mark the passage of time by these trees and their annual growth and bearing season after season. Through the years we had a variety of critters take up residence in the trees and two springs ago a little mourning dove family assembled a fragile nest in the flat space between two branches of one of the trees. Over the course of a few days, the petite mama bird used the long strands of grass and twigs brought by her mate to weave together a simple nest where she could lay their eggs. Mourning doves are not known for sturdy nests and her weave was light but thick and seemed to be sufficient for hold the eggs as the pair took turns safeguarding them. When it was time to thin the peaches (That means removing some of the tiny green peaches when they’re growing too close together) we were careful to work quietly and gently around the nest as the dove on guard kept a watchful eye on us. We did our best to keep our barking dog and bouncing balls clear of the space those doves needed to carry out their important work.
Despite our best efforts to protect the nest, they were subject to forces beyond our control. If you’ve lived anywhere in South Texas you know that the area can experience some mighty storms. There was one morning in particular when I sat nestled in my cozy morning space, when lightning lit the dark sky, rain pelted the windows and wind howled around the corners of my house. I thought with some angst about that little mama bird and her eggs, just 20 yards from me in distance but experiencing dramatically different conditions. As the storm worsened, my awareness of her heightened as I thought about that seemingly flimsy nest and her small weight. It is customary for the mother mourning dove to take the night watch, and I wondered if she’d flee to safety to save herself from being lashed by the rain and nearby leaves or if she’d stay with her eggs, offering them her warmth and protection while anchoring the nest with her small but steadying weight. As the storm raged with even more fury I was sure that even if she had stayed that surely her delicate bulk wouldn’t be enough to counter the strength of the wind and rain and that she and her nest would come to ruin. So much had we invested ourselves in this little bird family that I thought about donning my raincoat and venturing out to check on her but I realized that short of holding up her nest in a thunderstorm (which would put my own safety in danger and probably cause her more distress than the actual storm) there wasn’t a lot I could do for her at that moment. So with a realization that immediate intervention was not the needful course of action, I sent all the strength I could spare to that mama bird in the middle of a fierce storm.
In the morning, shortly after the sun rose and the skies cleared, I hiked up my pajama bottoms and ambled out through the wet grass to the tree, expecting to find some degree of disaster. Instead what I found was a serene mama mourning dove sitting on her nest. Upon further inspection I was surprised to see two tiny beaks reaching out as well. It was not just eggs that she guarded but barely-hatched baby birds! Despite the ferocity of the storm, that little nest along with it’s steadying mama held and it was enough to keep those little birds safe. Delighted at her strength, fortitude and resilience, and determined to support her in some way, I rushed back into the house, grabbed the birdseed and refilled the bird feeder, making sure to spill some extra on the ground. For a few short weeks afterward our family joyfully watched those little birds grow. There were times when we glimpsed them stretching and craning their necks around in the nest on their own. As the tiny birds grew and a parent returned with food there were times when we wondered how all of them were going to fit in the nest without one of them toppling out but balance was achieved and nature ran her course until the nest was empty and they finally ventured out on their own. The nest served it’s purpose to support the growth of the fledglings and the mother and father had served those little birds by providing an anchor, balance and nourishment when it was needed the most.