“Fascinating. Mourning doves, house finches and northern mockingbirds are nesting side by side in the tree outside my patio, no more than a foot between each nest. It’s like the avian suburbs.” That was my Facebook status update on April 2.
Thick evergreen foliage subverted my attempts to gratify a photographic jones for all three nests with parents brooding, let alone for the hatchling doves I could see feeding on crop milk. Images taken these past weeks have shown limb and leaf and little else save the occasional shadow that might or might not be a bird.
Yet my lack of pictorial success to date would not continue.
Yesterday I stepped outside to enjoy the unending rain but instead found myself beguiled by two frowsy fledglings. More specifically, two just-from-the-nest mourning doves (a.k.a. rain dove; Zenaida macroura).
The parents briefly watched me from their perch on the patio roof. Being mourning doves, they worry little about people. And I’ve been around them so much recently that they know I’m no scapegrace and that I pose no risk to the children, so they went on with their preening whilst I photographically disported with the chicks.
Deep shadows from an overcast sky coupled with the earthen and verdant colors on the ground proffered an oneiric setting for images as the two aptly colored young birds meandered about beneath the tree. No matter my nearness to them, I did not discover the threshold for their flight response. Instead, they glanced at me if I moved but otherwise discounted my presence.
They did keep looking up at the adults on the roof, however, as if checking to make sure Mom and Dad hadn’t vanished. This made for more than a few delightful giggles from me each time the chicks cocked their heads to the side and stared into the falling rain with monocular intent.
They never strayed far from each other. Where one went, the other was soon to follow.
The biggest hurdle I faced came from the patio fence itself. The spaces between the slats are smaller than the end lens element, so clear views either meant standing up and leaning over the fence or finding that just right position through the fence where telephoto distance overcame the peripheral wood in the frame.
The fledglings eventually moved through the fence and settled on the patio, and their parents came down to join them. All four birds napped peacefully for the afternoon.
But by sunset I mindlessly walked out there thinking they must certainly have moved back to the tree. The parents had, yes, but the juveniles had taken position on the fence, two fist-size bundles of feathers nestled together in the dark.
Long before sunrise this morning I found both kids in the tree. By first light the entire family had vanished. Off to face the world…
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 Although I often refer to this tree as “the tree of life” for all the wildlife and wonder it brings near, it has a dark side for which I call it “the tree of death.” It historically has been a killer of bird nests. The tree is situated against the west wall. This makes it a prime target for the violence of spring thunderstorm-related winds, hail and heavy rain. It was heavy rain that wiped out all of the mockingbird chicks a few years ago, one at a time washing them from the nest, then from the tree itself. It was a few years before that when strong winds destroyed three successive mourning dove nests with eggs, the same doves trying over and over after each assault. But the paucity of spring thunderstorms this year has provided an unexpected opportunity for birds even as it has left me wondering about the mysterious atmospheric silence.
 I have captured photos of the parent birds as they built their nests and as they came and went from the tree. Capturing images of these three species is an easy thing in this area and can be done throughout the year, so those pictures did not provide the fix I was looking for from these three nests. The fact that the nests are just above eye level and within arm’s length of me made it all the worse that I haven’t been able to find a clear view for photography.
 It seems most appropriate that these birds are sometimes called rain doves. The weekend brought nothing but precipitation and cool temperatures, so discovering the fledglings yesterday in the midst of steady rain felt all the more apropos.