My north neighbors and I are exhausted.
Between our houses is a stretch of picket fence followed by a convenient gap (for quick and easy visiting) and, after that, a buffer hedge consisting of ten-foot high hemlocks.
They’re pretty thick, those hemlocks, and near the top of the tallest, Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal made a nest.
We followed the construction for some time.
There were preliminary runs with twigs and small sticks; the real work started after that – flight after flight of other building materials, including some short pieces of yellow yarn that I had draped over some bushes in my back yard and something that looked like old shredded newspaper. Both birds would alight on an outward branch, then disappear like magic into the thickness of the hedge!
So I went upstairs, opened my north gable window, and leaned out. From up there I can look down onto the hedge, and from that elevated viewpoint, I could see the vague, brown shape of the nest.
At any rate, they did a fine job, and the nest is tucked in beneath some hemlock overhang. When it rains, most of the water follows the lines of the overhanging branches, runs to either side of the nest and drips off the last of the new growth. Pretty clever.
We didn’t see much of the Mrs., but Mr. Cardinal spent all his time flying from my front yard fence to the side fence (where he perched on my neighbors’ blueberry sign), across to their garage roof, back over into my yard. He sometimes stopped to rest on my back porch railing before making the return trip.
He was on guard: called out constantly – a short, piercing call – that clearly declared his territorial rights to the hemlock hedge, and everybody stayed away, including the neighborhood cats.
The Mister was constantly in motion, doing what he could to protect his brood. By the end of the day, he must have been pretty tuckered out.
My neighbors and I did all we could to help: we used our side doors less, our front doors more; we limited our trips down the side walkways, sometimes opting for marching through the house and out the back door rather than disturbing those youngsters.
We even parked our cars on the street instead of in our driveways!
Like Mr. Cardinal, we were on full alert: watching carefully, listening to little cardinal peeps, keeping an eye out for interlopers – especially crows and strange cats. We warned both paperboys (who kept a respectful distance) and the mailman, who started asking for progress reports – it’s a neighborhood affair, this raising of children.
They fledged yesterday, and all is well.