His parents were wise, building their nest high under the eaves of the house, where the downspout from the gutter formed a sheltered platform inaccessible to all but the most determined of predators. I noticed them early in the spring, flitting about the back deck, gathering materials for their home construction.
By midsummer their youngster had fledged and was spending his time in the trees behind the house, occasionally appearing on the deck with a loud and incessant “cheep cheep” call. As the summer progressed it became apparent to me that he had learned how to forage for kibble in the dog’s bowl. His plumage had begun to display the deep blood-red hue of the males of his species. Occasionally he would appear at the sliding door, peering into the house and cheeping loudly, as if telling me that the dog’s bowl was empty.
Northern Cardinals don’t migrate, they are year-round residents. This youngster was born and raised in my back yard. It is perhaps the only home he will ever know. My back yard is his universe. Sometime, maybe next year, he may bring his new spouse back to the place of his birth, and they will build their own home high up under the eaves, to teach a new generation how to eat dog food.
We are co-dependent, this little cardinal and me. He depends on me for food and shelter. But how am I dependent upon him? Simple, he represents nature, as essential as oxygen. A cheeping reminder that all life is connected. As Ed Abbey said, “wilderness is not a luxury, it is essential to the human spirit.”