One was trying desperately – comically – to find purchase in a mat of cedar twigs, while his/her sibling appeared almost confident atop the adjacent fence… the confidence betrayed by the bit of wobble in the wire to which it tenaciously clung.
This past weekend, the two youngsters became the latest additions to our elite garden pest control corps.
They had just made their first flight out of the bird house that their parents had graciously accepted as their primary abode some time ago.
Mom and dad picked their home from a number of choices we offered when they were house-hunting in preparation for raising a family.
At first we thought they’d go for the red-barn-style cottage in the chestnut tree, just one limb over from where they had started building their own accommodations, taking over a construction project that a woodpecker had started and abandoned nearly a year earlier.
They also showed considerable interest in an A-frame bungalow nestled among a tangle of grape vines, next to a clematis that offers great shade from mid-spring and a beautiful shower of thousands of tiny white flowers in late summer.
But in the end, they picked one of the duplex homes that bracket our garage, one in front (the one they picked this year) and one in back.
It’s not really much to look at – a sort of square wooden box with a round hole drilled into it, and tacked up against a corner, just under the roof. Its mirror image sits at the back of the garage, empty this year, but one or the other often attracts our migrant workers most years, often preferred over some of the upscale properties located in the aforesaid grape arbour and chestnut.
It was fascinating watching the young couple inspect the varied possibilities.
The fascination continued with the little ones. Long before we saw them, we were privy to their conversation – which like that of human babies consisted mostly of strident requests for food, followed by a few moments of gurgling indications of contentment.
But most fascinating is when they emerge – when they make that important decision to fly.
Once upon a time, many years ago now, we found a robin chick huddled on the ground beneath a spruce tree whose branches seemed to attract newlywed robins the way our garage duplex attracts chickadees.
How did he fall out of his nest, from way up there? Was it an accident? Was he pushed? We couldn’t be sure, but we soon learned a likely scenario.
To protect Albert (his hairdo reminded us both of Albert Einstein) from the neighbourhood cats, we placed him in an old hanging basket from the garden shed, lined with some moss and hung as high in the tree as we could reach.
His parents watched out for him there, but he didn’t stay long. Albert, it appears, was quite a precocious little character. The very next day, we saw him perched on the edge of his makeshift home, staring fixedly at the ground, flexing his knees and his nearly featherless wings.
He looked for all the world like a youngster contemplating a refreshing first dive into an inviting but cold swimming hole on the first day of summer.
He made several such false starts, and then, one morning he was gone.
When we think of Albert, even these years later, we express a hope that, like the sibling chickadees in our front yard, he made the plunge successfully and is out there right now, protecting someone’s garden.