John went to the garden to pick broad beans (they are so beautiful right now), Mendel peas, and broccoli while I watched the robins feed the young ones. Back and forth, back and forth. The parents are much less nervous about us — or maybe just desperate: at the rate the juniors are growing, feeding them takes precedence over fear. During a brief parental absence, I held the camera over the nest and immediately three heads rose, beaks open. In this image, though, you can only see two.


I’m gradually remembering some of the lessons of high-school biology when we learned about the difference between altricial and precocial avian development. Precocial young, like ducklings and goslings, are born with down and are pretty mobile (as well as cute!) almost as soon as they’ve hatched. That’s in part because the parents nest near the ground and predation is a high risk. The eggs themselves are more energy rich and the young do more of their developing inside the egg. Robins are altricial, as are all passerines; the young require more intensive care on the part of their parents.

It’s a pleasure to have this happening so close to where we do our daily chores, eat our meals, and take time to simply watch what is a strangely moving microcosm of family life.

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