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June 16, 2004: F is for Feathered

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I may have mentioned at some point last year (although I am not going to bother looking up any relevant entry links) that one of the reasons why I like my current job is because of the birds. Oh, there are certainly downsides to where we are located most notably the noise problem due to lack of insulation in the walls and ceiling/floor between the various offices. But one of the major upsides is the birds.

It's not just that we are located right on the river, although that certainly does help. My boss keeps a pair of binoculars on the desk and at any moment during a conversation about some paper or presentation we are working on, he might suddenly cut short what he is saying, get up, and stroll to the window with his binoculars trained on something he's spotted on the opposite side of the river. We've seen herons of every variety. We've seen some kind of swan. There are huge black and white magpies that swoop up onto the balcony outside our front door and twitter incessantly in the tree below us. There are swallows (or perhaps they are starlings I can never keep the two names separate) who nest in the opening at the base of the balcony outside our back door, where balcony floor meets supporting beam, and who occasionally swoop by, low across the water. There are sometimes ducks singles and clusters and sometimes babies if it's that time of year wandering around on the docks or in the water below. And then there are the birds whose soft cry is the one I love the most the mourning doves who nest in the eaves right outside our back door.

The people who own these buildings at some point put down rows of something slightly spiky along the interior part of the eaves which is supposed to keep the birds from nesting there. However, they failed to tell the mourning doves that this was supposed to be a bird deterrent, because it is, if one is a mourning dove, apparently actually the perfect place to build a nest and raise a family. Last year we had one nest, tucked into the furthermost corner of the eaves, so far in that we could not see her unless we went outside and stood on our toes as high as we could. We could certainly *hear* her and her mate cooing to each other on and off over the course of several weeks last year, and we would see them swooping by, occasionally landing on the narrow little sill that lines the window right beside my desk. But we never actually saw the babies because the nest was so well secluded.

This year, however, she returned or if not her, another one just like her and decided to build her nest in a slightly more open location. This year we can see her seated in her nest, her soft gray head just visible over a few scraggly bits of nest, and this year we were a bit startled, after a morning of a lot more cooing than normal, to discover that she had company. Two babies sat in the nest with her large enough to flutter down and then back, although she was still feeding them as we stood there and watched.

The doves had grown used to us last year coming outside to peer at them, so this year I decided to try to get a picture, especially now that there were babies, and she was in a much more accessible spot. I dragged the stepstool outside, climbed to the top step, and took the shot below a perfect picture of mom and two juvenile mourning doves seated in the nest. None of those birds even blinked an eye, nor did the flash bother them at all. But I nearly fell off the stepstool when I heard a coo from that secluded corner further back down the eaves. Turns out this year there wasn't just one nest there were two. I couldn't get close enough to see if that nest had babies as well, and I didn't want to upset either mother any more than I already had, but I did find it pretty amusing. All that hard work putting in that bird repellant, and this year there's twice as many nests to show for it.

Anyway, here they are momma and her babies. Aren't they just beautiful?

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