Sunday, June 26, 2022

La Famille Cardinale

This is a love story...or not.

{Apologies, for this and the majority of the other photos in this post. They were taken through a screened window of my kitchen.} 

I have learned so very much these past many weeks.
 I have learned about faithfulness, the importance of a true partner in this world; that there can be danger where you least expect it, that there are others who take advantage of others, that life goes on after loss. I have learned that the cycle of life can be both beautiful and sad, that life is better with a song in your heart, that things can and do change quickly, that "littles" grow up equally quickly, and that one should never, ever, become complacent to the point of taking things for granted.
Oh...and I learned about cardinals.

I am not certain where to begin, but perhaps the beginning would be the best place, no?

First, for some introductions:
Papa Cardinal...

If you read my last post, you would have seen a cardinal camouflaged in a tree in the following photo.  That would be Monsieur Cardinal.

Most times, cardinals can be a bit elusive (sometimes making one wonder if it was illusive).
But Monsieur Cardinal was a constant - and quite vocal - visitor.

{Trés beau, non?}

Had I been a bit more perceptive, I would have realized why the very trees seemed to bleed with song:
Mademoiselle Cardinal

There was an official courtship underway.
So, being cognizant of my both my moral duties and my legal duties, I married them forthwith.

Now, to be truthful, I am not entirely certain which came first - the chicken or the egg the ceremony or the nest.  All I can say is that things happened quite quickly, and I was relieved to learn that, unlike most humans these days, cardinals mate for life.

And soon Monsieur and Madame Cardinal were expectant parents.

{Although difficult to see, there are two eggs in the nest.}

I then realized that my duties did not end at just being the officiant and making an honest woman bird of Madame C.
Oh no...they had just begun.

I had to defend those little eggs from predators. 
And let me tell you, Nod may be the furthest thing from a big city you can find these days, but there are a great many predators here.

So, when I wasn't warding off these:
{Snakes...not concrete tortoises....}

...chasing off these guys:

...or trying to shoo these:
{A red squirrel just for you Saundra...}

... or climbing on top of things no person should climb upon just to get a peek or take a photo, I worried.  (And I bet you thought I was doing nothing since I last posted. For shame.)

But the happy day arrived, and the first little "chirps" wafted through my kitchen window.

But like "real" life, no love story is without some sort of tragedy or heartbreak.
There had been two eggs, but there was only one hatchling.  😢

I am not certain what happened.  Had it been a snake who climbed up there (THIS has happened, trust me...there is a post somewhere way back in my older posts that contains gruesome evidence of that), I would have thought both eggs would be gone.

But the more I pondered it, the more I REALLY started worrying.
Cowbirds are plentiful in these parts and cowbirds are notorious brood parasites - meaning they will pirate and/or destroy the eggs of another species bird's nest and leave their own eggs for the mistress of that nest to raise. 

And so I worried some more.

But worry just steals one's joy, so I put it quickly behind me, and watched the little one thrive (and studied photos of cowbird and cardinal nestlings just to be sure the nestling wasn't a cardinal imposter.)

{Love the little wisps of "hair" feathers on the top of his head...Think he had nest hair that day.}

I also gained a whole new respect and admiration for cardinals.
Papa Cardinal wore himself to a frazzle helping Maman Cardinal build the nest, then flying back and forth to the nest feeding both Maman and Bébé Cardinal.
It is also his responsibility to change the diapers (i.e., carry out the nestling(s)' poop sacks).  (True story...research it.)

During this time (assuming she is like "typical" cardinals), Maman had built another nest (cardinals do not reuse their nests) and started a new family, taking turns tending to her newborn and going back to sit on her soon-to-be newborns.  Papa, in turn,  was truly stretched to the limit flitting back and forth between two homes nests, changing diapers, feeding Bébé and feeding Maman.

And then "that" day came - the day Bébé left the nest.  I kept thinking I would have more time, but he grew so very quickly.  Like I said previously, there is hurt in every life and some sadness in every love story.  Papa and Maman, however thin their time was stretched, were there for the big moment. 

They took turns flying back to the nest to coax Bébé further and further.

And then Bébé was gone.  
I waited and waited for him to come back, but hours went by and he didn't.
Papa did come back a few times checking the nest, but no Bébé.

Finally, close to dusk, Bébé returned, by himself, to the nest.
He did not stay long, however, and did not, to my knowledge spend the night there.

The nest now sits abandoned...and each time I look out my kitchen window, I am reminded of the joy La Famille Cardinale gave me if only for a few, brief, weeks.

But, oh, is it quiet.  I had grown accustomed to their songs every time I stepped outside or opened a window.

The mockingbird is here still and sings such wonderful songs, but he does not know the cardinal's song.

The End


acorn hollow said...

We have cardinals but I have never found their nest and I did not know that they can have two nests at the same time. A blue jay is a horrid bird too they will eat other birds' eggs. Cute story and yes the young grow so fast and are gone in a blink
have a wonderful day.
Ps I love your picture on your header makes me want to walk down that lane.

Saundra said...

Be still my heart. I have many visits at my feeders with male and female Cardinals but never have I seen a nest just outside my window. Am not sure if I'm happy or sad as you've presented the cycle of life we as humans face every day. I've watched my grandson grow up and I changed his diapers. This year he graduated and already he's almost out the nest. BUT surely hope he takes his time to build a nest of his own.
Robin, you are a damn good photographer and story teller. You should start saving these to copywrite and have a book published. I'd sure as heck buy one.

Saundra said...

There are cowbirds in Delaware too but never noticed if they followed the Cardinals into their tree. ONG, what kind of camera are you using to capture such perfect photos? Capturing the wisps of hair/feathers on the baby Cardinal I've never seen in a photo. DO A PHOTO BOOK of the Beauty of Nature.

oldgreymareprimitives said...

Lovely my dear friend. Made my evening sweeter. thank you

C M Designs said...

It is sad what our feathered friends have to go through to protect their nests and their young. The most joy I've had was to see Papa Cardinal feeding Mama Cardinal while sitting on our chain link fence. Love to see the sparrows feeding their young also. Nature is a wonderful thing to enjoy and/or worry about. Glad you still have the nightingale to cheer you ! said...

“Nature is red in tooth and claw” (Tennyson) is hard and true. It’s beautiful that you took time to observe the whole cycle. And you saw your little one leave the nest ♥️ What a privilege

Shrimpton and Perfect said...

Such a tender and sweet story, you are a kind and sensitive soul. Thank you for sharing nature in all it's beauty.

Heritage Hall said...

What a delightful and bittersweet tale... Bless the pooper scooper male for his diligence and loyalty...much to be
learned from nature's traditions... Just love your blog
and wry slant....

Farm Girl said...

That is one kind of bird that I wish we had here. I loved your post. What really great pictures. Your top picture is wonderful. I would give anything to have a trail like that to walk on each day. Do you have snowshoes?
You live in such a beautiful place.

Julia said...

I love the sense of mystery and drama that accompanies your stories. You have a gift of engaging my curiosity and I try to read between the lines but in the end, the mystery is always revealed in a touching story.

What an adorable true story from your observation perspective. I love Cardinals and we have them here also. My son knew of a Cardinal nest in a tree just across the road from us and was watching a chipmunk running up the tree. No sooner was he there than he destroyed the baby Cardinal. This really upset my grown-up son. They are such beautiful birds and I love their song.

I was working on the final documents for the accountant to process our Farm Income Tax and finally had the time to go debug my potatoes and it started pouring again. sigh. I'd love to share our rain with those who are in need.

Take care and share your next story of baby Cardinals.


Prims By The Water said...

I did not know that cardinals mated for life. So do the mute swans here. I also know the hardships of mama birds trying to raise their babes. Here we have the crows who like to eat eggs and baby birds. We also have the snakes who are fond of both too. Once I had to remove a snake from a nest myself. It was the nest of a wren...and I hate snakes. Good on you for assisting in the rearing of the one babe. Nature is both wonderful and harsh. Janice

Hootin Anni said...

Extraordinary chronicle of the cardinal family!!

NMK said...

What a wonderful post !!!! Thank you for sharing !!!!

yaya said...

We have many cardinals here at the pines but I didn't know the things about them you posted here. How fun to watch the cycle of life that's in every life that has kiddos that come and then go. I'm betting the cardinals here live in all the pine trees and I have never seen a nest. We also have those nasty blue jays that attack nests. Anyway, I loved this post and I read your previous one too. I love the land of nod and hope all is well with you. My brother is still trying to sell his lake property to move closer to his daughter. Time will tell up North! Have a good week!

Rugs and Pugs said...

You have such a way with words!!! Simply beautifully written, and your pictures taken through a screen are better than any on mine any day of the week.

Dicky Bird said...

Oh my gosh, I love this!! You are such a good story teller! I did NOT know that about daddy cardinals. Thanks for sharing

Hill Top Post said...

Did you write this sweet story just for me? Ha Ha! Of course you did. I love it! And, what a great ending "but he does not know the cardinal's song."

Janice Hebert said...

I loved the pictures and your sweet story. So many lessons to learn in our lifetime. We have cardinals here - such a loud clear song. And Baltimore orioles, another loud bird. This year we have lots of male orioles, amazing color flashing through the trees - they love jelly! We've gone through jars of jelly this year. I ran out and discovered that they also love sugar water. So now I'm making sugar water for the hummingbirds and the orioles, haha. Cheaper than jelly though. Thankfully our snakes don't seem to bother our babies. That I know of anyway. The Eastern Bluebirds have had two batches of babies with no problems this year. One batch for the wrens, they've just fledged and I miss their chattering. Jan in MA

marly said...

I've never found a nest, but did see the babes. Mine did not look like your last photo. They had little crowns and soft solid brown feathers. You were a good guardian CC. There are Phoebe nests on the porch and those cowbirds never fail to knock a few eggs out. We have a lot of wren houses and I love to hear them singing. Tomorrow I will pay close attention to the many cardinal pairs at the feeder and see if I can follow their flight to a nest. Loved your post.

Haddock said...

Wonderful pictures and wonderful story. I did not know that cardinals mate for life. The next time when I spot them I will look at them with more respect. (seriously)

Primitive Stars said...

Afternoon Robin, you held me captivated with your Cardinal story, you have such a way with words my friend. Love the pictures as well, that tuft of hair is adorable. We do not have the beautiful Cardinal here so I do enjoy pictures of them where others have them. I am a birder, like you I have fended off many predators that bothered the Bluebirds that nested at the our camp. Oh how I loved watching the Bluebird family with their young, 2 batches. It’s been two years since they were at our camp, have not seen them since which leaves me sad. But there are many other fine feathered friends to enjoy, love the simple things……thank you for another wonderful post, I really look forward to them. Take care, July Blessings,Francine.

WoolenSails said...

I have a pair that stays year round and the male always lets me know if the food is gone and he wants some. Last year I saw two young from them, nothing this year. Lots of other young though and I do love se being them come out with their parents, but heart broken when I find one on the ground, not sure why, but I guess nature takes the weakest.