Outside the window to my left there is a nest in our mulberry tree. Both parents are back and forth constantly, carrying wormy morsels for consumption by two tiny, hungry baby birds. I have been watching this beautiful process for about three weeks now, starting when I noticed the two adults putting the final touches to their compact little nest, right in front of the glass doors at one entrance to our house. If I wanted to I could clear the distance between the entrance and the tree in two or three strides, stand on the bench just beneath it, and reach up and touch the nest. At first I thought I was surely mistaken: why would they build so close by? Had they not noticed that there are people living here, using this very entrance several times a day? Not to mention our cat (okay, he’s elderly and has never climbed that tree, but he’s often in the area), and that all things considered they had best find another spot?
But they persevered. Days later it became clear that there were eggs in the nest, with one adult spending a lot of time sitting there with his or her mouth open, (I think they take turns) and awaiting sustenance. The other parent’s job is then to fetch and carry food, to make sure that the other doesn’t go hungry. And then suddenly there were babies. We couldn’t spot the babies at first, but there was clearly some feeding of little ones going on, with both parents involved and alternating between sitting, finding food and generally fussing around the area in a parent-y kind of way.
The birds are Karoo Thrushes, common in Johannesburg gardens and preferring shady, woody areas under trees, where they can forage for insects, spiders and other small creatures.
Within a few short weeks this particular little family has flourished, despite several thunderstorms (typical of Johannesburg at this time of the year) which could knock the sturdiest of birds’ nests sideways in no time. Each time, I waited with bated breath whilst rain and hail poured down and wind howled, with loud thunder claps and lightning flashes enough to make your heart skip a beat. As the storms abated I would peer out and noticed with relief that the little nest was still in tact with one parent, soaking but stoic, still huddled down, covering and protecting the young ones beneath.
The first time I first saw the babies was beaks- up, mouths wide open, awaiting the descent of the morsel held in the parent’s beak as he/she alighted the nest. Even more special was the first time I spotted their little bobbing heads, faintly downy and backlit by the morning sun behind the tree, creating a bright little fuzzy halo of newly forming feathers.
The past five years (almost exactly to the day) has seen many special wild creatures visiting our garden, some even making it into the house. Spiders: some of them venomous, frogs, herons (which catch and devour the frogs and goldfish in our pond), a tawny eagle, an owl, a small snake, flying bats, scorpions, a variety of wasps, bees and butterflies, damsels and dragonflies, and of course an endless variety of garden birds.
How to bring Mother Nature to your door? I can’t say exactly, but no doubt our organic garden (no chemical fertilizers or pesticides) helps to create the right environment. But more than that: perhaps the secret ingredient is love 🙂 The people living here and holding this space do so with love and commitment to an eco-friendly lifestyle and to ‘treading lightly upon this earth’.