yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: My Peeps

Robin nestingA robin made the not-so-brilliant decision to make a nest right above the front door to the dorm. Normally, both female and male robins take part in the child-rearing process. The couple will even stay with their young for a few weeks after fledging to teach them how to survive on their own. Then they either use the same nest or build a new one and start the whole rigorous process over again. In this instance, there was only the female left to carry the burden of both. These things happen unfortunately. It’s the fickle finger of nature.

At the time she built the nest the location was ideal because the dorm was unoccupied. However, by the time she laid her eggs, our field season was in full swing. This meant having to fly off her nest every time a person approached and not being able to incubate her eggs for long periods because she needed to feed herself. She even had to endure snow storms and extremely low temperatures for the first few weeks of incubating with very little shelter from the freezing wind. Many people didn’t think the eggs would ever hatch but I knew she could do it. I spent long periods sitting under her, getting her used to people and after a while she didn’t fly away anymore. And after a rocky start, she eventually proved the naysayers wrong…

Robin babies

Here they are! Little mama did it! There were four of them and they were so darn cute and totally cool with Auntie Jaime taking their picture…all the time. And mama was cool too. I’d even leave insects on the step for her so she didn’t have to forage as much. We were a good team. The work paid off and they grew by leaps and bounds! Eventually, the little lards got so big that they flattened the sides of the nest and couldn’t help but lay on top of one another. It was getting a little pathetic, as you can see…

Robin babies too fat

So the morning I took this photo I decided it was time to have the “leaving the nest” talk with them. At this point, I thought they were never going to go and it was just getting ridiculous. So I actually told them it was perhaps time to spread their wings a bit and give mama a break. A few hours later I came back to an empty nest. They took my advice and moved on.

I never used to think much about robins. They were just there. Whenever I saw one, I’d subconsciously mumble (in my best Hannibal Lector voice) “Robin redbreast in a cage. Puts all of heaven in a rage.” Besides the Silence of the Lambs reference, that’s pretty much all the attention I gave them. But now after seeing that mother’s dedication and perseverance and those adorable babies, I have complete respect and admiration for them. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to help out and at least be a positive ambassador for my species. Oh goodness, I’m getting a little weepy as I write this…I clearly need some sleep.