Veganism has helped me to be a better human in so many ways. It’s given me a deep appreciation for life. I live in a small city, on a busy road in a house that I own. Living here I’ve been able to take advantage of my love of gardening, being outside with the dogs (sans leashes- which had never happened until now), and watching the wildlife that lives around me. I am fascinated by nature and it’s inhabitants, inspired by it’s beauty. I’m so grateful to share the space I have with the wild animals around me.
Being vegan, my lawn has never been poisoned with chemicals- my gardens are insecticide/pesticide free. I garden by hand, meaning I don’t have equipment to trim my grass or hedges. I mow infrequently, much to the dismay of my anal neighbors, and encourage life to flourish in my space naturally. The animals have found my backyard, lush with trees and gardens and free from chemicals, the perfect spot to have a family. There have been two batches of kits in the backyard. I’ve watched 3 young rabbits grow from eyes-still-shut-fur-free-kits to full grown bunnies that eventually left the hutch. There are squirrel nests in the trees, wild rabbits everywhere, and a new hawk family that lives in the trees across the street. I have National Geographic Ohio happening right outside my windows.
This year, I have American Robins (Turdus migratorius) nesting!
To give you an idea of the placement of this nest, the window it sits up against is my living room window- which is also next to the front door. So, if I am inside the living room I can see the nest perfectly. I can’t see inside the nest, I’m short. There is a wooden blind on the window that allows me to see the nest even if the blind is closed, though not very well. In order for me to see inside the nest I have to be inside, on the stool (on the tips of my toes), under the blind that is halfway taken down. In other words, it ain’t easy.
A robin nest is built exclusively by the female out of twigs, straw, hair, and mud. The female then lays a clutch of eggs, typically three to five blue eggs- one per day. Then the eggs are incubated by the female for 14 days. During this time she continuously turns the eggs (so the babies don’t stick to the sides) and they get incubated evenly. If the eggs get too hot she covers the nest with her wings until the eggs cool. If the eggs are too cool, she warms them with her brood patch (a small patch of feather-free skin on the belly of a female robin). She rarely leaves the nest for longer than 5-10 minutes while she’s brooding incubating. Wonder what the male robin is doing while the female is doing all the work? Never fear, male robins are dedicated mates. They bring food to the female when she is laying the eggs, he also stays close during brooding to protect the female and the nest. Robins do not mate for life, but will stay with each other to raise their babies before moving on to mate again.
I waited impatiently, for the female robin to lay her eggs. One day when she left to get some invertebrates for lunch, I held a mirror out of the window to see if there were eggs. Three!
Robin eggs hatch after 14 days of brooding, in the order in which the eggs were laid- each a day apart from one another. I started a countdown till the approximate time that I thought the eggs would hatch. And then…
One little life popped it’s head out of the nest, mouth agape, looking for food. You can’t tell it from the picture but there are three little birds in the nest. It’s challenging to get pictures (see above: short) so most of the 7,453 pictures that I have are from inside the window with it closed. Now that the eggs have hatched, the female and male robins take turns feeding the babies about 35-40 times per day. When one parent leaves, the other shows up. The male has become an important figure in rearing the child, even will sit on the babies to keep them warm. Thanks Dad!
I’ve learned so much about birds because of this experience. The babies are only 2 days old but I’m already looking forward to seeing them grow feathers, which will happen in a few days. These babies grow quickly, in about two weeks they will leave the nest to go on and start families of their own. American Robins have a lifespan of 14 years, though most only live for 2 years.
Birds are an incredible species, the more I learn about them the more I want to know. Ravens are first bird species found to reconcile with each other after a fight. Crows can recognize human faces and remember them years later. Pigeons (or doves, as all pigeons are doves and all doves are pigeons) can recognize it’s reflection in a mirror (the only non-mammal that has this ability), recognize all 26 letters of the English language, and conceptualize. Scientific tests show that pigeons have been found to be able to tell the difference between photos, going so far as to differentiate between two completely different humans in the photos. All of which is nothing short of amazing.
Being vegan extends beyond our dinner plates. It extends to the birds that nest around our homes, the bunnies that burrow under our porches, and all of the other millions of animals right outside your back door.
I really want to document the baby birds in photos. I mean, come on, they’re cute. In between the parents feeding the baby robins I have approximately 2.2 seconds to get a picture. Getting the shot requires opening the blind, then the window, and balancing on a stool while you try to get three fuzzy things in focus (that don’t stand up, they just flop around)- all the while watching out for the parent robins. I try to be respectful and not scare them. When I get too close the robins let me know. They’re watching me as much as I’m watching them.