Circle of Life

by Tom Swift

The little buddy and I came home one afternoon this summer and found a bird grounded on our ground.

She hopped about on our lawn beneath a tree. She didn’t take flight despite our presence, despite our direct approach. Not even when B. got his sniffer close. Meanwhile, another bird circled, some feet overhead — shifting between the shrubs, a telephone pole, and the large, canopy of a maple tree in our yard.

You did not need to be a naturalist to tell that the grounded bird was being watched by the bird in flight, which zipped around and chirped sharply as if to make sure we knew he was on the scene. As the grounded bird did not seem young, I suspected she might be pregnant.

(A few weeks before, while out on a walk, B. and I had encountered another grounded bird, this one in the street, not taking flight despite our curiosity and despite the cars and bikes zooming past her inches away. Amazingly, a man from the local wildlife rescue stopped on his bike. He suggested pregnancy. In that case, too, there had been a police bird above us, squawking and flying from limb to limb, whenever we drew near — and especially when the wildlife volunteer moved the mamma to a safer space.)

A day or two later it became obvious that our male bird had nested in out shrubs. It was not uncommon to hear him move about in the leaves. Often he would go out, dance on the telephone poll, or zip off for a while, and come back. Where the expectant mother wound up — she was clearly not hanging out any longer in our yard — was was not clear.

That is, until an early evening some days, a week, maybe 10 days, later.

I had gotten home from work a few minutes before and B. and I were out in the backyard when, all of the sudden, there was a loud rustling at the top of the maple. Just like that, police bird bolted out of the shrubs. A rocket with feathers. Overhead, a not-small hawk levitated from the maple headed in the direction of the clouds. Our guy, presumably the soon-to-be father, chased after the hawk. He squawked and squawked while he flew like a bat out of hell. We knew then where the mother had been had been living those past days.

The whole scene was so loud even the neighbors reacted with amazement for what we had just happened in our yard.

For days after, every time B. and I went into that backyard I thought about that bird chasing that hawk into the sky. I thought about what he must have done when he realized there was nothing he could do.

I thought about him again this morning when I saw that his nest had fallen out of the shrubs and onto our lawn where it sits now empty.