Birds in Our Backyard

When Emily and I bought our house in 2007, there was a birdhouse hanging from a nail in the ceiling of the basement. This past spring, for the first time, we put it out in our backyard. And then one Saturday in late June this past summer, Toby and I discovered an amazing thing: some birds had moved in. And they’d had babies. And that afternoon, the mom was feeding them.

This video is pretty long, as these things go; it clocks in at just over seven and a half minutes.

In Web years, that’s like Roots. Or The Civil War.

We were so excited. We took two of our lawn chairs and set them up so that they were facing the birdhouse; we put them what felt like a respectful distance away. And then we sat and watched the mommy bird—or the bird I assumed was the mommy bird—bring her babies food, and take away strange white bits that to me looked like eggshells.

I should add that it was me who thought it was the mommy bird, not Toby. As he and I talk about, about five minutes in, Toby thought the mommy and the daddy were alternating, one bringing their babies food and then the other.

Which I’d like to think is a testament to who Emily and I are as parents.

Does this need editing? Most likely. You probably don’t need to watch this bird feeding her babies (or birds feeding their babies) for all seven and a half minutes to understand how beatific it was to spend a Shabbat afternoon sitting and watching this happening just a few feet away from us in our backyard.

The sad part of the story is that I had the mistaken idea that this would be our family hobby for the whole summer—that we’d be able to enjoy our own private bird theater all summer long.

But the very next day, they were gone. The birdhouse was completely abandoned.

What were the white bits she kept removing? Was she feeding and relocating at the same time? Was she scared? Did we drive them away with our proximity?

The video is amateurish—a hand-held Flip, unedited—but I’m glad I have this evidence. We bemoan the fact that we all distance ourselves from merely experiencing something with these devices that we hold between our bodies and the reality in front of us. But sometimes it’s nice to have a record: Look. This actually happened. I saw this. It was right in front of me.

Happy new year, friends.