It looked just like a fallen pine cone or a leaf, or a piece of bark off a tree.
I slowed my bicycle because often things are never as they seem.
A tiny puff of grey feathers turned its carrot billed head just as I passed. So I stopped. It was a dangerous place for a tiny fledgeling. The edge of a busy asphalt pathway around a sparkling blue pond. It was early yet, but curiosity would get the best of some would-be fishers of the under-12 variety on this catch-and-release lake.
So I parked my bike and walked slowly back to where the little birdlet still sat, waiting for parental assistance. As I got closer two very disturbed cardinal parents swooped beside me. Warning shot across my bow, no doubt. I assured them in human words I meant no harm but that did not convince them. Holding both hands, palms out toward the little bird I moved slowly closer to encourage it to go back into the safer undergrowth, praying for no snakes. It lifted like a butterfly and fluttered forward an inch or two.
Both parents now watching a safe distance, still chirruping to assure their tiny one they were close enough.
I moved again toward the feather pile, again it responded, this time hanging a wing over a blade of grass, quickly adjusting so it was on more solid footing. The parents moved in closer, I walked back to my bicycle to continue my ride.
Cardinals mate for life and are devoted to their offspring. If something fatal happens to one or both parents a literal village of the bright red birds moves in to help raise the orphans. They are territorial but only in habitat, not combatively.
Another blogger I followed used to say that if your parents have passed on and you see a cardinal near you it is a parent watching over you.
Lovely to think so.
When my ex-husband and I separated I lived with my parents for a few weeks. Seemed to make sense since I’d gone back to work at my dad’s company, but one evening before dinner Mother, Dad and I were sitting in the den. Still reeling from trying to accept that my happily-ever-after had turned into an extra-marital nightmare I heard my dad casually say to Mom, “Don’t eagles kick their young out of the nest?”
So human fledging isn’t always as genteel as cardinal fledging I guess. At any rate Mother and I pored over the classified ads for a condo, which we found, to my lawyer’s disapproval. Had to be. My parents were ready for their chick to leave the nest. Again.
I continued working for my dad for a few years, and my son and I lived in the condo Mom and I found for 15 years after. I suppose Dad felt somewhat chagrined because all those years later he generously helped me purchase the first house I ever owned and lived in on my own. Well, with my son of course but he was soon bound for college and life on his own.
So eaglets, even human ones bounced out of the nest do survive. And thrive.