THE BLUEBIRDS & THEIR NEIGHBOURS

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CHAPTER 1

Back to the Old Homestead

ANOTHER winter was almost over in the Chilly Northland. Of course, there would still be stormy days with some snow and sleet, because it was only the second week in March. But down along Little River, which ran through, the old Homestead, the Budding Pussy Willows proclaimed that Jolly Spring was near.

It had been four months since Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird had left the old Homestead with their family and gone to the Sunny Southland to spend the winter. Now, Mr. Bluebird was on his way back north. As usual, he had left Mrs. Bluebird behind, for he thought it would be better if he reached the Old Homestead early and took possession of the hollow post by the Apple Orchard, which had been their nesting place during three summers. And so he had braved the blustery weather of early spring in the Land of Cold Breezes, while Mrs. Bluebird remained to enjoy a few more days of play in the Sunny Southland.

Mr. Bluebird sat on the bare branch of a roadside tree thinking. He had been resting and feeding almost all day. He was thinking about the Nesting Post, and wondering if it would still be standing when he arrived at the Old Homestead.

"Ha ha-ha-ha," laughed some one near by. Mr. Bluebird knew the voice of his old neighbor, Robin Red, who last year had built a nest in the Red Cedar that stood in the yard of the Old Homestead. He was right glad to see Robin Red, for they had often met in the Apple Orchard and in the Green Meadow when they had been n in search of food for their babies.

Robin Red had been a very good neighbor. He always minded his own business, and he was always jolly. It was never too cold and it was never too wet for him to sit on the topmost branch of the Big Elm near the Red Cedar and sing to his family. Mr. Bluebird believed in taking care of his own affairs also, and so they had got along fine together.

"Hello, Mr. Bluebird," said Robin Red. "I am glad that we are going to be neighbors again this summer, for, of course, you are going back to the Old Homestead."

"I hope that we may be neighbors," replied Mr. Bluebird thoughtfully, "but I have been worried about the Nesting Post by the Apple Orchard. I heard Farmer Smith say last summer that he expected to take up the old fence before the ground froze, and build a new one. I do hope he left the Nesting Post."

Robin Red did not mean to be unsympathetic, but he was at least a little thoughtless. "You should build a new nest every summer' as I do, and then you wouldn't have to worry," he said.

"Perhaps you are right," replied Mr. Bluebird, "but I know that Mrs. Bluebird would never agree to do that. It wouldn't seem like home if we changed every year. What shall I tell her if the Nesting Post is gone?"

"Where did you spend the winter?" asked Robin Red.

"In Mexico," replied Mr. Bluebird, "and I am anxious to get back to the Old Homestead where it isn't so crowded. It seems as if every one goes south to live during the winter."

"I guess that is true," agreed Robin Red. "The Old Homestead with its Apple Orchard and Green Meadow and Little River and Duck Pond suits me."

It was growing dark, and Mr. Bluebird was anxious to be on his way. "I must be going," he said, "or I shall not reach the Old Homestead by morning."

"Ha ha-ha-ha," laughed Robin Red, "I'll be along in a few days."

It was not yet light the next morning when Mr. Bluebird reached the Old Homestead, so he sought the sheltering boughs of the Red Cedar, and rested. When golden fingers began to streak the east, an´┐Żnouncing that the Laughing Yellow Sun was about to appear, he flew to the Big Elm, which stood near by with its bare arms reaching skyward. From it he flew to the housetop. Somehow he could not get up courage to go at once to the Nesting Post.

From the housetop he could hear Farmer Smith stirring around within, and soon the odor of wood smoke came to Mr. Bluebird from the chimney. He hopped across to the top of the woodshed back of the house, and waited until Farmer Smith went to the barn with his milk pails. Then he flew to the Apple Orchard. The Nesting Post was gone!

CHAPTER 2

Mr. Bluebird Meets Old Friends

IT WAS a very blue bluebird, in feeling as well as in color, that sat on the leafless branch of an apple tree and stared at the spot where the Nesting Post had been. The Nesting Post was gone; there was no doubt about that.

"How can I tell Mrs. Bluebird when she arrives?" he said to himself.

And then he thought he might find another Nesting Place that would suit her if he looked around. He felt quite sure it would save a lot of worry if they built a new nest every year as Robin Red had suggested and as Robin Red did himself, but he could not for the life of him see how they would be able to make it stay on the bare branches of a tree. That was too much for Mr. Bluebird; and, besides, he knew that Mrs. Bluebird liked more seclusion in her home than there was in an open-topped nest. No, that would never do.

Mr. Bluebird heard a clear whistle that came from the vicinity of the Hedgerow, which grew along the back of the Apple Orchard.

"That's Bobby White," he said; "I believe I'll just fly over and see what he has to say for himself. Perhaps he can help me."

He saw Bobby sitting in the shelter of the Hedgerow before Bobby knew that he was near. And what is more, Bobby had his whole family with him. You see, Bobby White is not much of a traveler. In fact, he probably never would leave his old home more than a few miles if he were not frightened away. As there was never any hunting done on the Old Homestead, Bobby felt that it was a safe place to stay. He liked the shelter and seclusion of the Hedgerow; and he never failed to find some cracked wheat or barley or millet when the snow was deep, which Bud Smith always thoughtfully provided.

"Hello, everybody," chirped Mr. Bluebird, from his perch on the nearest tree.

Bobby White and his family whistled their surprise. "Are you back this early?" asked Bobby.

"Tru-ally, tru-ally," replied Mr. Bluebird, "and right glad I am to be. But our Nesting Post is gone, and now I shall have to find another place. I thought you might be able to suggest something that would help me."

Bobby White walked over so that he would be a little closer to Mr. Bluebird, and stood on one foot while he thought.

"Why don't you build a nest on the ground as I do?" asked Bobby. "It is no trick at all, and I have seen any number of good places in the Hedgerow. I am sure there are enough for all of us."

Now, Bobby looked upon the Hedgerow as his own private grounds, and Mr. Bluebird thought it was very generous of him to offer a building place.

The summer before, Bobby had invited Woodsy Thrush to build his nest anywhere he chose in the Hedgerow, and Woodsy had found a place to Mrs. Thrush's liking in a secluded part and far enough above ground to be safe from Hunting Cat and Snoop the Weasel and other enemies.

Mr. Bluebird knew that it would never do for him to follow Bobby's suggestion, much as he appreciated the offer.

"You see how it is, Bobby," he said. "Your coat almost exactly matches the Hedgerow; and if you don't move, your enemies are not likely to see you, whereas it is hard for me to hide. And then, your babies are soon able to take care of themselves, while mine must be fed and kept in the nest until they can fly. If they were on the ground, I am sure Hunting Cat would get them."

There was a tapping on a nearby apple tree, and Mr. Bluebird looked up in time to see Downy the Woodpecker remove a fat grub and swallow it.

Evidently he had heard what Mr. Bluebird had said about nest building.

"Why don't you make a hole in a tree for your nest as I do?" he asked.

Mr. Bluebird felt very helpless. Here was another friend offering a suggestion; but he knew that his bill was never intended to be used for a wood drill. Downy believed in using his head, but he used it more for a wood chisel than he did for thinking. He had pecked at trees so much that he was fairly cross-eyed.

There was no use denying the fact, Mr. Bluebird was getting discouraged. It seemed as if all his friends were ready to give advice, as friends usually are, and they meant well, as friends always do, but what he wanted was help. How could he build a nest in a tree every year like Robin Red, or on the ground like Bobby White, or how could he peck a hole for one like Downy the Woodpecker?

Then he had an idea, and it seemed so good to him that he flew straight to the top of the Rambling Old Barn without even, thinking to thank his friends for their friendly suggestions. Mrs. Bluebird would be arriving one of these days, and something had to be done soon.  

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