the wild mothers

I meant this post to be for Mother’s Day and I’m a little late. However, it is still spring and a time to celebrate all mothers – especially Mother Nature.

I remember when my children were very small I had a plastic window box for flowers outside my kitchen window. In early spring when it was still empty, a pigeon made a nest in it and laid her eggs. One day there was a spring snowstorm and the little bird continued sitting on her eggs. Every once in a while she would fluff up her feathers to shake off the snow. Then the snow turned into a cold rain and still she sat there like a little soldier without moving. I watched and worried. Her motherly instinct would not let her abandon her babies. I understood her. I could see that the window box was starting to fill with water. When the rain did not let up and the water had reached her chest, I could stand it no longer. I took a chance and opened the window. She did not move. She was accustomed to seeing us very close to her through the kitchen window. I took a kitchen knife and cut holes into the plastic window box to let the water drain out. She let me get that close and still did not move. Did not abandon her eggs. I looked into her orange pigeon eyes and thought her the bravest of mothers. One egg hatched and we saw up close how she raised her baby. I would hoist my girls up to sit on the kitchen counter so they could see the window nest as the mother pigeon fed her chick and then later the flying lessons from the kitchen window box  to the bedroom window box. Back and forth the fledging practiced and then one day was gone. It was a successful nest.

I became a live stream nest watcher when the City Room blog of the New York Times featured a camera pointed at the nest of the red-tailed hawks of Washington Square Park in New York City in the spring of 2011. There was high drama on that nest because the mother had a band on her leg that was put on too tight and her leg was swollen. An effort to capture her was planned. But then it was decided that it was too risky to attempt because the little fluffy white eyas (hawk chick) named Pip would freak out and maybe fall off the building ledge nest. Nature took its course and Violet was an excellent mother. We could see her on camera struggling with her lame leg while she fed scraps of rat meat to little Pip. Responsible and valiant, she hung on until her offspring left the nest and only then did she succumb to her injury.

Christo and Dora are our neighborhood hawks. Their hunting ground is Tompkins Square Park. Last spring they made a successful nest and raised three baby hawks on an air conditioner at the Christadora apartment building across from the park. This year they’ve moved their nest to another air conditioner,  this time on the Ageloff Towers on Avenue A. Their three eggs have hatched and we are now seeing the fluffy white baby hawks on a nest cam. Laura Goggin is a neighborhood photographer who has followed the hawks and shared her beautiful photographs on her blog Gog in NYC. I’m struck by the generosity of the neighbors who install a nest cam to share their view of the nest with us. Here is the link to the nest cam for Christo and Dora’s nest.

Dora at the Ageloff nest. Photo: Laura Goggin Photography

Dora at the Ageloff nest. Photo courtesy of: Laura Goggin Photography

Dora and babies last year at the Christadora nest. Photo courtesy of: Laura Goggin Photography

Dora and babies last year at the Christadora nest. Photo courtesy of: Laura Goggin Photography

Now I’m watching a different kind of animal, a critically endangered red wolf on the den cam at the Wolf Conservation Center in New York state. Salty gave birth to a litter of seven pups on May 2nd. It is a window into a wild world. On a warm night I can see that she is fast asleep. Her sides softly rise and fall with her breath. Her sleepy dark puppies are clustered close to her with their bellies full of milk. The cacophony of bug song has died down too from earlier in the evening when they were thunderous. Sometimes you can hear the other wolves howling. I feel very privileged to be able to witness these wild animals. Here is the link to the live den cam.


6 thoughts on “the wild mothers

  1. A+…wild Mother’s Day story. I’ll send you a pic of a belated Mother’s Day card this kid gave her mother:

    She bought a very sentimental christian card for $2.99 at a dollar store and drew her mother and herself, in pencil, in the context of trite dime store sentiments. She and her mother had horns and were in solidarity. Jim JAMES COOPER ARCHITECTURE 212 West Center Street Medina, NY 14103 585.500.5908


  2. Ileana,
    I love this post. The Wild remains if we can recognize it, out and within.
    Con Los Animales
    Joe (barbara’ guy, now retired)
    We hope to get to NY this year. )
    Love from Ashland Kentucky

  3. Ah, Ileana, I always knew you were a kindred soul. What a beautiful piece and I’m so proud you rescued the pigeon from the rain. They are fascinating birds, beautiful birds, not the pests they’re made out to be. Much love, R

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