Weekly Photo Challenge: Telling a Nature Story

For the last few years I have been fortunate to have robins make a nest and hatch their young ones outside my kitchen window. I set up my camera and take plenty of pictures.  Every morning though, before I set up my larger camera, I take a look inside the nest and take a few pictures using my point and shoot. I use my smaller camera because my larger camera would not be able to fit in this space and take photo like this:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/50

Apr 22 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/50

For these photos I am using the macro setting.  I choose the ISO; 800 seems to work well in terms of getting the color with out too much noise.

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/60

April 24 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/60

The first morning that there were two hatchlings.  These are approximately an hour old.  They hatched early, before there was enough light for photos, so I waited.

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/40

April 25 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/40

Just a day later, they had many more feathers and a new sibling.

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/100

April 26 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/100

After a few days, these three were doing well, but I was concerned about that last egg.  It had some imperfections on the shell, but it had grown some, so I was hopeful that it might just be a bit late.

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/80

April 28 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/80

By the time I took this photo it was four days after the first hatchlings made their appearence.  The egg does not look good.  Also, the other three birds are now strong enough to stick their heads up over the lip of the nest when the adult birds come to feed them. So, even if this last bird was to hatch, I suspect it would be too small to be able to get food.

Two days later the birds are much bigger and looking more like robins:

May 1 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/60

May 1 ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/60

It turns out that was the last photo of the babies I would get.  The next morning, this is what I found:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/80

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/80

No sign of the babies or the last unhatched egg.  I’m not sure what happened but my guess is that they were taken by another bird. I like doing projects like this, just documenting nature.  It isn’t always pretty.  Our nest last year had five successful hatchlings, four of which were then taken off by a hawk.  This post was written in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Spring.  A reminder perhaps that nature is both beautiful and brutal. What do you think of this type of project, do you find it difficult to stomach?  Let me know what you think of the photos or the project in the comment section below.


85 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Telling a Nature Story

  1. I feel bad for the mama robin, who lost her brood. I used to live in an upstairs apartment that had an overhang over the patio. It was a great place for the birds to build a nest safely. The only danger to them was one of my kitties, who seemed intent on watching and waiting…

  2. Well, that’s the natural world, red in tooth and claw… My sentimental side doesn’t like to be shown the reality, but my more realistic side knows that this is how it is.

  3. These photos turned out very well with a point and shoot. You must have very steady hands. I’ve always struggled with keeping my hands still. First time I’ve seen a hatchling in photos and I found these photos very moving – spring, new life, new beginning. “…nature is both beautiful and brutal, perfect way to sum up this set of photos. It doesn’t seem the birds will be returning to the nest to much, it’s a small nest.

    • Yes, this point and shoot does take very nice pictures. I do sort of brace myself using the ladder and the wall to get the pictures. We get a nest in this spot and we have others in the yard, and small as it may seem, it is actually a typical size for this type of robin. It also does seem dangerously full in the day or so before the babies leave the nest. It all happens so quickly. The nest will not get reused though. We observed that over the years. So, we took the nest down the day after it was vacated in case there was another set of birds that would want to nest there.

  4. Just yesterday I heard a tapping noise on our kitchen window. I thought it might be a woodpecker – we’ve had problems with them drilling holes in the cladding. Turned out it was a male robin (I assume male) picking a fight with his own image. Love the journal. Yes, it does tug at the heart strings… but.

    • Yeah, it probably was a male, they are a bit more aggressive this time of year. I’m sorry you’ve had trouble with woodpeckers, we have gotten lucky that way. We have a lot of woodpeckers and luckily they have kept to the trees.

  5. Great pictures! And yes, you have to take the rough with the smooth when doing nature photography. Life isn’t always pretty. That’s why I always feel a bit guilty when setting out bird feeders since it seems like preparing a buffet table for the hawk.

  6. I think the photos are fabulous. Giving us a glimpse into nature. Like an unhappy ending to a movie the last photo is not what I hoped it would be. It is nature and there can not be happy endings for all to survive.

  7. It is hard to see baby birds being taken, but that is the truth of nature too. Beautiful pics of what happened! I’ve never seen pics of newborn birds that descriptive.

  8. Nature can be cruel. I want to recheck the swan and cygnets in our area. There are many predators for Mom and Dad to worry about: hawks, raptor-type birds, white pelicans, alligators and two huge dogs I saw running thru the neighborhood without an owner in sight. Your photos were captivating.

  9. Sad, yes, but it helps us to understand how connected everything is – in nature as in everything else in our world – and how tenuous life is. Quite magical to see the fledglings grow like that – in six days, it’s quite extraordinary – and to notice the deterioration in the other egg. Do you wonder whether the hawk or other predators became aware of your daily interest in this place and came in for a closer look?

    • That is possible. Last year when we documented a hawk getting the nest, it had been patrolling the area and was targeting several of the nests in the immediate area. Several smaller birds including that year’s robins tried to drive it off unsuccessfully. The cooperation among the birds was interesting to see. Hawks generally hunt in the afternoon in this area, so I try to get my pictures in the early morning when they don’t seem to be around. Having said that, the truth is that I don’t know if I am part of the problem or not.

  10. Awwwww- that is so incredibly sad. 😦

    But beautiful pics. 🙂

    Tonight I found a nest in my front garden… sitting in the livingroom I heard some noise outside on the wall, and then birds going crazy. I knew my feline kitty was up to no good – so raced outside. Cat halfway up a climber on the house, trying to reach a nest, and the parent birds were sitting on a wall – helpless to what was going on.

    So, cat now inside, and we will put a barrier up tomorrow, to ensure my female kitty (my tomcat is no problem) cannot get to the chicks.

    I love the idea that birdies want to nest with us… but I so wish they would go to someone elses garden instead – someone who doesn’t have cats! Now I will be an emotional wreck until the chicks has left the nest (one year we had four nests!). *sigh*

    • So, spring is a trying season for you then. I’m glad you try to keep your cats out of the nests🙂 This is a good spot to keep the cats out, as well as the raccoons, but is pretty open to the hawks.
      It is sad, but I guess also why there are always so many nests around, so that some of them make it.

  11. Beautiful story of birth and new life! Thanks for sharing. I do wonder what happened to that last egg though. If it were Australia, I would say a snake took it. It’s happened to many of our chickens😦

  12. Aw I remember last year … so I was hopeful as no doubt you were too Amy .
    Nature has it’s own rules we can but only observe what happens sometimes .
    Thanks for sharing though Amy . I wonder what the other species of birds nesting you have around .

    • Yes, I was very hopeful🙂 even though I knew the reality of what might happen. Nesting in the neighborhood is a Red-tail Hawk. I’m not sure where the nest is this year, but close by. In our yard we have 2-3 robins, a blue jay, some finches. Also, a black bird of some kind. Also, new this year, a squirrel in our front yard. I don’t know if I mentioned this to you but in addition to the foxes on our street, the neighborhood also now has a coyote. Busy place🙂

  13. What amazing photos! I like projects like this. It gives us a chance to see baby robins being born without worrying that we might harm them somehow. It’s sad that they didn’t make it, but it is part of nature. If this were at my house, I’m pretty sure the culprits would have been my cats.

    • Yes, cats are an issue in the neighborhood. I know in the past some of the nests we have in the hedgerow have been raided by cats. This particular spot was cat proof, I know because I saw one try in a previous year to get to this spot🙂 However, this spot is a bit too open in terms of the hawk.

  14. I loved the series of photo’s you’ve taken Amy and it sure is such a shame that they were taken. Let’s believe aliens came and abducted them and they are now safe on another planet where no one can harm them.😀

    • Yes, it does actually make me feel better in a way to know that they were probably taken by a hawk because that means the food chain is healthy enough to support the larger predators. I guess I just really like the idea that it is possible to have a healthy bird population in such a relatively developed area. I do feel bad for these little robins though, as I do get attached to them the minute I see their nest being built.

      • Oh, I totally agree there Amy. Well, that’s nature for you and it’s like you say – it means that the bird population is healthy around there. Just like you I also feel bad for the little birdies but well, nature knows what’s best too. I also know how attached one can get to these beautiful critters of nature. Maybe soon you will have some again.😀

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  16. I think you’ve told a great story – the photos could almost tell it with no words. Our safari in Africa taught us the same lesson. Nature is brutal but we all enjoy the sight of a soaring hawk or a beautiful bald eagle so we need to remember they are predators first and foremost! Excellent post.

  17. wow – well I hope I can come back later and read what some of your other commenters have shared – because many times that makes the post just that much better. But I ma short on time this week – and just have to add my comments. First – loved all the stages you were able to capture – true work of art! and totally sad –😦 but I know, I know – cycle of life.

    and we had some baby birds get stuck in our backyard one spring – and our black lab ran out and got one of them – and he was so confused. Like he just “instinctively” ran out there and grabbed one in his jaw – and we were like “drop it” – he did – but then he picked it up again (what dogs do) and we said ‘drop it’ again – and well it was too late for that little babe – but we opened the gate and helped scoot out the other ones – whew.

  18. I feel empathy for both you and the bird parents. Your pictures are wonderful though. Just this afternoon while I was doing some work in the garden I heard a robin squawking as if a cat were around. Then I saw feathers falling from the tree above me. It turned out to be a hawk eating a bird. Once it saw that I saw him–it took off with it’s prey. I felt so sad for the robin that chased after it…

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    • It is hard to watch that sort of thing happen, even though you understand it is part of how things work. We saw a hawk take the hatchlings from last year’s nest. It was hard to watch, one of the birds from that nest did survive though.

    • No, it’s pretty much an educated guess on our part. When hawks have taken robins in the past, and we have actually seen it, it is pretty surgical procedure. The robin is plucked out of the nest and the nest is left clean behind. When cats or raccoons get into nests, they tend to make a mess and there is a trail left behind.

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