Atticus Finch, in the classic novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” said, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy ... but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Well, Atticus Finch has not walked through my garden during nesting season. Those melodious warbles turn to raucous squawks and graceful glides turn to perilous dive-bombs.
Years ago, my son had a cat named Trout (don’t ask). This cat was a semi-feral kitten when we got her and after years of attention and regular meals, she remained irritatingly skittish. One day, in the garden, she surprised me by doing loving figure eights around my ankles. My joy at this unexpected show of affection quickly evaporated when I noticed the pair of mocking birds swooping nearby. The cat was using me as a human shield.
There is a lovely Crape Myrtle outside our bedroom window, which is a favorite place for a pair of mockingbirds to build their nest every spring. It is also near the porch where we feed the cats. At 6 o’clock every morning, the pair of cats sit on the porch waiting to be fed. They do not have too long of a wait during the week, but on weekends, well, they just have to wait. These patient cats drive the territorial mockingbirds into a frenzy, thus, waking me up and since I am up, I feed the cats. I’m angry because I wanted to sleep in, and the mockingbirds are still squawking, but the cats are happy. Short of cutting down the tree, I see no end to this cycle.
This spring, I noticed twigs, tucked into a tall evergreen which is under the arbor at the Garden Center. I would remove the newly placed twigs, hoping to discourage the mockingbirds, as defensive birds do not make for comfortable customers. A few weeks ago, I noticed a mockingbird flying out of the evergreen, and sure enough, there was a nest with four beautiful, blue-speckled eggs.
Perhaps, because I pass by that tree countless times a day, they have decided that I am not a threat. I peeked in a couple weeks later and saw four newly hatched babies, but stepped away quickly when I heard the agitated birds. The next day, when passing the nest, I said “Good morning,” only to see four heads pop up with mouths wide open. It was so humorous that I had to take a picture, and immediately felt the wings of one of the birds brush my shoulder, almost ending the delicate truce we have.
I’m not cutting down the tree nor am I moving the evergreen, so it seems one of us is going to have to be more tolerant. Unfortunately, I think it will be me.
Laurie Rubner is the owner and operator of The Arbor Garden Center in Bethlehem.