One stands strong on Rumsey Island


It has been 15 days and the finches have been guarding their clutch of eggs  like “nervous-nellies”, awaiting the tell-tale peck from inside the shell that signals the final step in the miraculous transformation from egg to eating machine. The embryo develop what is known as an egg tooth on the end of their beak so they can break out of their shell when they are ready.  It disappears shortly after they are born.

Soon all of the little peepers that survive the ordeal of hatching will be sitting upright in the nest and at the least sound, since they are blind when they are born,  they will be yelling as loudly as they can, “feed me, feed me”…

…A day has passed since I began this tale.  I heard some abnormal sounds coming from the nest and momma and poppa have been flying back and forth across the canal a lot so the babies must have hatched.  The majority of the nest is down behind the ring so you can’t see anything from ground level. They are yelling a lot and both parents are bringing bugs and such from  Rumsey Island to the nursery so there must be at least a couple of chicks. A storm of tornadic proportions is brewing and I am going to stop this for a time  and see where it goes…

…I am back and it’s Saturday, about noon, the storm blew through last night and the nest is empty.  I saw the remains of  three baby birds on the grass in front of the patio, looks like we did have casualties from the storm after all. I see one of the adults down by the sea wall or concrete bulkhead, what ever you wish to call it and she looks like she is feeding one baby bird.  I can’t walk and I can’t go there with my Scooter,  couldn’t get back up the hill, but I am sure it’s our finch.  They must have hatched a while ago and all that two-parent activity was the feeding frenzy.  What I thought was an adult sitting on eggs was a baby begging for bugs. The chick looks from here like it is pretty well feathered so it can fly.

I picked up the remains and wrapped them in plastic and took them to the dumpster. At least that way they will be buried.  If I leave them there too long, the crows or the gulls will “feast” on them, scavengers that they are. I can’t say for sure if they left the nest before the storm or if the wind blew them out but the heavy rain must have drowned the others.

I was focused on  TV, watching the tornado tearing up Fallston and not paying much attention to the patio.  In fact for a while I closed the blind, figuring if the wind blew something like a chair from another patio and the glass broke, it would help keep debris from coming in the apartment.

Both adults are now bringing bugs to the baby bird and it is just standing there flapping it’s wings and making those “feed me” noises.  The baby is within 3 feet of the edge of the canal and one adult is standing with it while the other one just flew across the canal for more food….there went the second one and within a minute the other was back feeding the off-spring.  I am watching the show with my binoculars and thinking how patient and caring those adult birds are and what a little loud mouth that young one is.

Guess it still thinks it is competing with  its siblings….little does it know, it is now an only child.

I have read that the survival to adulthood among song birds is about two out of five of the eggs that are initially laid and it is more likely to be just one strong enough out of those two to get most of the food as a chick. Then they have to cope with the harsh weather that sometimes comes suddenly at that time of the year. Next come the nest robbers, like Blue Jays and the Crows,  that raid the nests and eat the newborn.  They are large and aggressive and an adult Finch has little or no defense against them.

I suppose I have just witnessed the reality of Darwin’s theory of Evolution and understand what Herbert Spencer meant when he coined the phrase, The Survival of the Fittest in his Principals of Biology written all the way back in 1864. At least, in the future,  there will be one more Finch singing their beautiful song on Rumsey Island…

Don Langrehr

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