When I went to check on the robin chicks yesterday morning I discovered that the nest was empty. After our sad loss last week, I feared the worst.  I immediately went outside and searched the entire area around the nest, but found nothing.  A little later in the morning, as I was refilling the bird bath, I looked up and there they were, in our Mulberry tree.  I hadn’t realize that they were that close to flying, because because their tail and wing feathers weren’t grown in yet.  But I guess they were ready, since their parents couldn’t have carried them.  That must have been quite a journey for them all, from the arbor on one side of our house, to the Mulberry Tree all the way back near our garage on the other side of our lot.  It’s got to be at least 75 feet, as the bird flies, so to speak.  What amazes me is how good Hector and Heloise’s timing was.  The Mulberry tree just ripened a couple of days before their chicks fledged.  Between the nest building, the courting, the incubation, the hatching and the fledging, about 6 weeks to 2 months must have passed.  It just leaves me in total awe of how the natural world flows in synchronicity.

That Mulberry tree is such an asset to the wildlife in our community.   It’s a weed tree and its existence entirely due to serendipity.  When we bought this house about 11 years ago, it was as tall as the forsythia border between our driveway and the property line.  I have fond memories of Mulberry trees, there were a few in the neighborhood where I grew up in the Bronx, so I just let it grow.  My neighbor wasn’t crazy about it because it cast too much shade on her border on the other side, so every spring I tried to prune it to keep it on our side.  In those days, it was too young to fruit though, and remembering the purple stained sidewalks of my childhood, I wasn’t sure that we’d want to keep the tree once it started to fruit.  But it was a fun project for me to hone my pruning skills on (as is forsythia).  The side benefit of that early pruning is a really cool branch structure, perfect for tree climbing.  Both my kids and the neighbor kids love getting up in there.  Fortunately it turned out to be a white mulberry tree, so although it does make a mess at this time of the year, the berries don’t stain.  And the wildlife LOVE it.  It’s absolutely insane how active that tree is at this time of the year.

In addition to our two beloved baby Robins, I’ve noticed several (2 – 4) newly fledged starlings in the tree.  It’s hard to differentiate fledglings from their parents, because they are almost the same size, but I’ve observed that they definitely don’t fly as well as the adults, they look like they have to work really hard at it.  The mulberries are a great food source for all kinds of birds, I’ve seen cardinals, sparrows, catbirds, mockingbirds, grackles, and mourning doves.  Song sparrows and gold finches are around too.  Mulberries are somewhat sweet, and have tons of seeds, which are a great source of protein.   I don’t like them much, they’re a bit bland, but my neighbors’ mom likes them.  They seem to be a new health food, too, I’ve seen packets of them dried in our local Whole Foods.  I just looked them up online and they are going for $7 to a whopping $15 a pound!  They are supposed to be a great source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, and protein.  I’ve read that cherry orchards plant mulberry trees because they fruit at the same time as cherries, but the birds like mulberries better, so they stay away from the cherries.  I have a young cherry tree, but the mulberries didn’t protect my cherries last year.  Maybe birds prefer the black mulberry.