Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Some weeks ago, I had what I assumed was a recurring optical illusion: I kept seeing a bird fly into our mailbox. Since the mailbox flap is always snugly closed, I decided that the bird was flying toward the mailbox and then somewhow veering out of my line of sight. But then there was the question of the droppings.

Splat in front of the mailbox lay a considerable deposit of bird poop. Nancy said, "Well, there are droppings all up and down the street. We have lots of birds in the neighborhood, you know." Yes, and I rejoice in every one of them, but other mailboxes did NOT have the abundance of droppings at their base as ours did, just an occasional white fleck here and there. What's up with that, as the kids say.

By the Homeowners Association decree, all houses in our neighborhood have standard mailboxes. In front of each house is a brick pillar about shoulder height. Embedded in the brick is the standard USPS metal box, shaped somewhat like a large loaf of bread, with the hinged flap for putting in and taking out the 14 catalogs that constitute our daily mail these days. A bird could not get into the mailbox. Just to make sure, I opened its maw wide and felt 'way in the back, to determine if there were any feathers or other signs of permanent lodgers. Nada.

Still several times a day, the bird flew towards the mailbox and disappeared.

As it turns out, between the embedded metal box and the brickwork below is a slight gap, perhaps an inch high and as wide as the box. You'd swear only a hummingbird could fly in there, but no. A young sparrow couple had indeed set up nestkeeping in those cramped but safe quarters. And yesterday, in front of the brick pillar, three fledglings were hopping around on the ground, under parental orders to get those wings going. Of course, the minute I spotted them, I worried that they couldn't do it, and would get smashed by a passing skateboard or scooter or worse. Their hops were skittish, the fluffing out of their feathers a plea for help and comfort. But periodically they got airborne for several feet and then for a few yards. Today they are in the huge evergreen tree outside my window, gobbling up the birdseed and flying exactly as any teengers would fly, with energy if not accuracy.

Their parents are scanning the catalogs with an eye towards redecorating the now-spacious mailbox. The triplets are on their own. Send us a postcard sometime.

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