A few mornings back, I noticed a flurry of activity near the pine tree when I set out to water my garden. A red cardinal and his mate chooked near me incessantly as I walked, careful not to trip on the shallow tree roots. That's when I saw a fluttering ball of moving feathers on the ground, blending into it. A tiny scraggly bundle of cheeping hatchling tried its level best to get away from a large and scary interloper. I was only thankful that I hadn't stepped on it in my hurry to get to the garden hose.
The anxious chooks continued as I showered the plants with their daily dose. I wasn't sure whether I should move away and let the cardinals get their little one, so I finished up as rapidly as I could manage and went inside.
Half an hour later, I couldn't resist stepping outside. Now the cardinals were fluttering around the base of the cherry tree, a good 50 feet away. They flew away, scolding as I approached it. At first, I could see nothing, but then I saw something that looked like a rock at the grass near the roots. It was the hatchling, camouflaged almost perfectly by its unremarkable grey. Only its beady eyes and pale beak were give-aways. I hoped that the parents had not abandoned it because it fell out of the nest, but was reassured by this article that I had done the right thing in not attempting to take the bird home. Apparently, baby cardinals are ground bound for about 10 days and fed by their parents till they develop enough strength to learn flying.
The next morning, I noticed a fluttering in my vegetable garden. Little Hatchling was skipping merrily around my beans and okra, with Mom and Dad scolding and chooking the moment I made my morning rounds near the garden. Shortly, it perched precariously on a rhododendron stalk, utterly still as I brought out my camera. Preternaturally calm as I shot my photos, it stayed in place without budging for 5 minutes.
The cardinals have since moved their baby to another location. I still see them at my feeder every morning, peering to see if it has been filled, calling accusingly if I am tardy in replenishing the feeder. Some day soon, I expect that I will see the cardinal with their newly-flighted chick perched on the deck railing, feeding it the last mouthfuls of regurgitated baby food, before it is old enough to fend for itself.