Yesterday, I watched with delight as mama junco flew in and out of her nest all afternoon, attending to her tiny hungry babies who are beginning to find their voices. I scattered some sunflower seeds nearby, but not too close. All seemed well with the sweet family until just after dark when a loud thud sent me running to the front door, whereI discovered a neighborhood cat posted below the basket. The thud was undoubtedly the sound made by the cat lunging at the basket. I shooed the cat away, but there was no sign nor sound of mama junco. In the nest, tiny hungry beaks reach upward, waiting for mama to come. I had a difficult time sleeping.
Today, my heart sunk when I opened the screen door but didn’t hear the sweet morning song of mama junco. I peeked into the basket and discovered all four babies dead in the nest.
In the wild, even without domestic cats in the mix, hatchlings have a relatively low survival rate. That fact, while not particularly comforting, helped to contextualize the task of burying the baby juncos this afternoon. I buried them in honor of their wee but important lives, and because I needed a ritual to honor my unlikely friendship with their mama. I dug a small hole and laid them beneath the tall Doug Fir closest to their nest, where many other beloved wild and domestic creatures also rest. I decorated the grave with the best bloom from the camellia bush, and feathers I found nearby; perhaps, their mama’s.
I said a prayer of gratitude for the babies having died together, in their cozy nest, rather than in the jaws of the cat. And another for that sweet mama junco, who made her home at the entrance to my home; whose beautiful song came in through the screen door; and who taught me a much-needed lesson in acceptance. God bless the wild teachers.