Ari and Sarah got up to the cottage this year before I did.
We always hand off information like a baton in a relay race: how much water is up there, did someone bring up the good mustard, stop in to grab the dock towels on your way. This also includes the critter considerations: the red squirrel is back gnawing at a different corner, black ants have breached the bathroom and there is a wasp nest … somewhere.
It seemed the only creature that was actually trying to get out of the cottage was my sister’s dog Finn, who made himself a doggy door through the front screen the day he arrived.
“There’s a bird’s nest above the light on the front deck,” Ari told me when he got back. There is an ongoing debate about which is the back and which is the front. I say the lake is the front, and I’m right, and my son obviously agrees with me, which makes me even more right.
“Yup. It’s been there for ages. I even have a picture of little yapping baby birds in it from a few years ago,” I told him.
“Yeah, well, there’s a bird in there now. We have to do something because he’s crapping all over the deck. And the swing.”
“We figure it out in the fall, but it can’t be that bad, can it?”
“Bring the power washer.”
He told me they’d noticed the small bird hanging around in the lower branches of the trees whenever they were on the deck. It would chirp at them, telling them they were intruding. When they left it would tuck itself into the nest it had co-opted from some long ago bird, and wait until morning to start all over again.
I’d been up there an hour when I saw it. It was hopping along the railing, scolding me. If I went out, it flew a few meters to low tree branches and continued from a safer distance. Every time I tried to get a picture, it took off, but I finally figured out — the internet is a wonderful thing — it was a red-eyed vireo. Incredibly common to the area but now quite special to me. I texted Ari.
“You really have to name this little bird. He’s darling,” I wrote.
“Yeah, it’s Jerry.”
“We are never moving Jerry’s nest. It’s his safe place. We love him,” I replied.
“He craps everywhere though. Maybe we buy him a bird house pole.”
“Cleaned it up, it’s not that bad. But if Jerry has kids in the spring, it might be a different story,” I replied. I dug up the picture I’d taken and wondered if one of the little birds I’d captured was baby Jerry. My search history was full of things like “what do baby red-eyed vireos look like” and “how long do red-eyed vireos live.”
As Jerry was yapping at me from some branch, another Jerry landed on the rail. I’d thought there might be two, but they all look identical. Now I was looking at two at the same time. I texted Ari back.
“I think there might be a Mrs. Jerry. Jeraldine.” I thought this would make for a cute story, though I’ll admit I had no idea how this tiny nest, about as big as a coffee mug, could hold more than one bird. A tiny one room studio apartment that obviously didn’t have a bathroom.
I told Ari we weren’t moving the nest. It’s a tough life cycle up there, and generations of wee birds had obviously figured out this spot under the eaves and over the light was as safe as it was going to get.
“99 percent sure Jerry is a single father,” texted Ari.
Not the only storyteller in the family.