The previous homeowner had advised us to keep a weather eye out for the titmouse. Every spring, she said, the little grey bird with the tuft on its head would return to the back porch, where it would build a nest up in the corner underneath the rafters.
Sure enough, the titmouse showed up and, using damp leaves and moss, crafted the sturdiest bird’s nest I’ve ever seen.
And then she sat on the nest and entered into a perpetual state of panic.
There was a bit more traffic on the porch than she was used to. I lugged groceries up the steps a couple of dozen times a week. My husband went out to get the paper early in the mornings. The kids slammed the screen door a lot. The dog went out, came back in, wanted to go out again, barked to come in again multiple times during the day.
Every time we opened the porch door, mama bird would explode off the nest and swoop into the backyard, drawing attention away from her nest in an act of maternal sacrifice that I never failed to appreciate.
And then one night she didn’t fly into the yard.
I remember thinking, as I stepped out onto the porch, “We should just stop using this door until those baby birds are out of the nest ... wait, did mama bird just fly into the house?”
No, she couldn’t have flown into the house. I didn’t have the door open that long. I turned to look in the kitchen, just in case. No bird.
From the living room, my son let out a sudden holler. “BIRD!”
I sprinted to his side. “Which way did she go?” I asked.
From upstairs, my husband let out a sudden holler. “AAAAAAH!!”
She went that-a-way.
Upstairs, she fluttered wildly from one side of the room to the other, perching on the door sills until we finally caught her with a small fishing net and released her out the window. She was back on the nest not long after.
We’ve all learned our lessons, I think — birds and humans.
This week, I had to fly out of the Birmingham airport. Waiting to board the plane, I noticed a sparrow flying around inside the terminal. I watched it flit from column to column.
“At least it has a window so it can see outside,” I thought, unlike those birds that live inside Walmart.
The man sitting next to me was also watching the sparrow, which swooped down and perched on the back of a seat as passengers stood up to board the plane.
Then, as is the way of strangers contemplating wildlife where it shouldn’t be, he told me a story. When he was in college, he and his roommate walked into their dorm room one day and discovered a squirrel sitting on their sofa.
The squirrel had been coming in and out through a hole it had chewed in a corner of the closet.
“We had been wondering,” he said, “why we kept finding walnuts in our shoes.”
Contact Lisa Davis at email@example.com