This week I have a poser for my readers. I am hoping that there might be an ornithologist out there who could shed light and help resolve the “mystery of the robins’ missing eggs”.
Just over two years ago, I had written about a pair of robins who felt comfortable enough to select and grace the ledge of our first-floor bedroom window to build their nest and then proceed to lay eggs (see https://wealthisnotmoney.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/nasheman-the-ayrie-of-love/). My wife and I indulgently watched their mothering efforts that resulted in four chicks. It was particularly fascinating to see how the insistent parents later prodded their offspring, literally pushing them off the ledge to “spread their wings” and learn to fly. Following the initial, hesitant training sessions over time the chicks gained enough confidence and one after another took flight to soar away.
We were very pleasantly surprised when the robins came back again, last year (https://wealthisnotmoney.com/2017/04/22/the-robins-are-back/) and felt honored to host the family a second time. Our hearts nudged us into believing that this was the same pair of returning robins while our mind dictated there was no empirical evidence available to logically ascertain this. Nevertheless, the ever-demanding ego took pride in believing that there was a unique bond between us and these special birds, which is why they had returned home to our dwelling.
Imagine our surprise therefore, when the robins returned once again this year! The only change was in the location of their nest. This time it was sited on the right-hand side of the same window ledge twenty-odd feet above the ground, instead of the left side that the birds had preferred on the previous two occasions. Just like in the past two years, four emerald blue eggs appeared one after the other, to adorn the nest. My wife eagerly monitored all activities and kept track of the birds’ movements, each parent’s shift including time spent sitting on the eggs etc. We waited expectantly for the first of four eggs to hatch.
Early one morning, my wife woke up for a drink of water and casually peeking out the window at around 5.30 am, espied the mother-robin perched on her eggs in the nest. Later during the day, at about 10.30 am my wife looked out to check on the robins again. She could not believe her eyes! The nest was empty, and there was no trace of the eggs or the robins. She alerted me and we both looked carefully but could not spot anything unusual. The nest was as it had always been, with no twigs or bits of the nest out of place that would indicate it had been disturbed or damaged by a visiting predator. Most surprisingly, there were no eggs or remnants of egg-shells either in the nest or on the ground below. It was as if the eggs had never existed! We were devastated!
Over the past few weeks since discovering this loss, we have spoken to more knowledgeable friends, researched the internet with Aunt Google’s help but come up with no explanation. I was told that another species could have stolen the eggs. There are a few domesticated cats and some racoons casually visit the neighborhood, but it is doubtful if these animals could climb up a twenty-foot brick wall.
If anyone can enlighten us, we would appreciate it very much.
I have often wondered “Where do old birds go to die”? Arundhati Roy posed this query in her ‘The God of Small Things’ nearly two decades ago and has brought it up yet again in her more recent ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ in which her protagonist inquires, “… tell me … Imam sahib … where do old birds go to die? Do they fall on us like stones from the sky? Do we stumble on their bodies in the streets?”
However, the mystery on hand respecting missing eggs has to do with the start of these birds’ lifecycle not their old age. Ironic that either way one looks, it is still the loss of life we are faced with.