The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

The world is alive …

Daddy cardinal feeds his son.Every spring I sit mesmerized as, in the space of just a few days, the mass of quarter-inch buds inexorably spread their petals in a real-time slow motion exposition of pink and white four-petaled flowers, each bloom more than two inches across.

The petals will shortly fall off, leaving behind next years buds, and life goes on.

The birds around here love the tree. Some of them eat some of the buds, robins and sparrows and, this year, a couple Rose-Breasted Grossbeaks on a rest stop along the way from where they’ve been to where they’re going, bath in the stream below the dogwood, then fly into its arms to preen.

A cardinal couple landed in the dogwood a few days ago. He turned ’round and kissed his mate, then came to the feeder, grabbed a sunflower seed and returned to the tree to wait while she grabbed and ate a few seeds.

I watched him, though probably a different him, another spring bring his son to the tree near the feeder. Dad came to the pile of seeds and ate, seeming to ignore the youngster pacing around crying for breakfast. Finally, dad filled his craw and went to the youngster, who opened his mouth and let his dad fill it.

Dad made a few more such trips until finally Junior had been adequately fed, and the two headed back to the woods.

Some people think wild things do not have in them the intellect or emotion to form such bonds among their family unit. They regularly display otherwise.

Atop the fence near our house, a pair of House Sparrows are getting frisky. It won’t be long until she lays a clutch of eggs. In about two weeks, we’ll hear the sounds of baby sparrows. He and She will take turns bringing food for the youngsters.

I’ve never seen the sparrows fledge. I watch Mom and Dad prepare for their arrival, I listen to the youngsters chirp wildly within the nest, and one day silence reigns.

Last spring, I mounted a camera over a robin’s nest almost hidden in a neighbor’s holly tree, and watched as Mom and Dad fed their new offspring and hauled away the waste. Gradually, feathered finery clothed the youngsters, changing their appearance from prune-wrinkled promises to creatures appearing able to fly.

When the youngsters “fell” out of the nest, Mom and Dad stayed with them until they had gone completely around our home, then disappeared beneath the forsythia bush at the edge of the wood. I never saw them again — at least not while they were small enough to be obviously that year’s offspring.

This year, I’ve not yet found the robins’ nests. I can occasionally hear the drumming of flickers, and around the yard Goldfinches, seemingly too small to be capable of creating eggs that could turn into more finches, flash like sparkling sunlight around the back yard.

My spouse often reminds me we are becoming two old people, sitting in the backyard, watching birds. There certainly are plenty of them to watch. Several cowbirds showed up Monday. A few Chipping Sparrows and House Finches have been around all winter, as though left behind in the fall to maintain a presence, “show the flag.” Fat Carpenter bees are chewing 1/2-inch holes in the pergola. And a pair of bats flutter at rooftop height across two lots, scarfing tiny six-legged flying critters. The food chain beeing what it is, I wonder briefly what eats bats.

And whether the bluebirds will actually raise a family this year.


  1. Melody kemp

    May 23, 2018 at 03:31

    Oh John, what a love story..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.