THE BLUEBIRDS & THEIR NEIGHBOURS
WHEN Mrs. Bluebird arrived at the Old Homestead and saw the new Nesting Box, she wanted to start her nest building right away. That is, she wanted to start it as soon as she had visited with some of the old friends that she had not seen since she went south. But that night after she visited with Bobby White the Merry Little Snowflakes began to fall, and they put an end to Mrs. Bluebird's nest building for a while. That was the same night that Molly had gone to look for Peter and had stayed in the Cozy Form under the rabbit bush.
So it was not until the middle of April that Mrs. Bluebird really got around to it to fix up the Nesting Box. At first Mr. Bluebird carried in sticks and straws and grass stems, which he placed unevenly on the floor.
"Dear me," said Mrs. Bluebird, "I think I shall finish this nest myself. Those sticks are too large, and, besides, I know better than you do how I want it."
Then she went to work herself. Of course, Mr. Bluebird helped also but part of the time he sat on the peak of the Grand Old House and sang little love notes to Mrs. Bluebird.
Robin Red and Mrs. Robin hopped around on the lawn looking for worms.
"I believe the Bluebirds are building their nest," said Mrs. Robin.
"Ha ha-ha-ha," laughed Robin Red, "they must be in a hurry."
You see, Robin Red thought it would be better not to build his nest quite so early: in the spring. He wanted to wait a few days so that when the little Robins hatched it would be easier to find worms for them. And so Robin Red flew into the Big Elm tree and sang a carefree song.
"I believe I'll build a nest myself," said Mrs. Robin. "I don't want Mrs. Bluebird to be ahead of me." Then she began to carry twigs into the Red Cedar tree,
Mrs. Robin's nest building was very different from Mrs. Bluebird's. First she built a foundation out of rather coarse sticks and grass stems, which she fastened to a branch of the Red Cedar next to the trunk. Then she piled on some finer grass, which she fashioned into the shape of a nest by standing in the middle of it and turning round and round. After the nest had been shaped, Mrs. Robin plastered it well with mud inside, and lined it with fine grass, string, feathers, and other soft material. Sometimes she gets in a hurry and is not so careful, not even taking time to plaster her nest.
Mrs. Bluebird's nest making should have been very simple because she already, had a house in which to build it. But she was more particular with it than Mrs. Robin was with hers. She hunted, hair and very fine grasses; and although she had started it ahead of Mrs. Robin, she finished about the same time.
Mrs. Robin and Mrs. Bluebird were not the only ones who were busy with spring work. Jenny Wren was hopping around looking for the kind of things she liked to use for her nest, and scolding Mr. Wren because he would rather sing, than help her build a home in the hole that Judge Flicker had, made for them by knocking out a knot under the eaves of the Grand Old House. She carried so much material into the hole, trying to fill the large, empty space in the cornice, that she didn't finish her nest until long after Mrs. Robin and Mrs. Bluebird had moved into theirs.
It wasn't long until Woodsy Thrush, the Song Sparrows, Noisy the English Sparrow, and many others were also building nests. Spring was a busy time on the Old Homestead.
One day Mrs. Robin noticed that the Bluebirds were busier than usual. They were so busy that they scarcely had time to talk to each other. You see, they were carrying a great number of beetles and caterpillars and bugs into the Nesting Box.
"I think Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird must have a family to feed," said Mrs. Robin. "I do wish I could see into their Nesting Box."
She felt a tiny form moving under her breast, and stood up so that she could see into her nest. "Robin Red, you come right here," she shouted.
Robin Red flew down from the perch in the Big Elm where he was singing, and peeped into the nest. There was a teeny-weeny bird opening a very big mouth toward him.
"Ha ha-ha-ha," laughed Robin Red. "I must go and tell Mr. Bluebird."
"You will do nothing of the kind," said Mrs. Robin decisively. "You go and find something for me to eat right away. I am hungry, and I cannot leave this baby.
And so Robin Red hurried away, stopping just long enough on the gatepost to sing a lively tune to show how happy he was.
Mrs. Bluebird soon saw Robin Red returning to his nest with a fat worm.
"Mr. and Mrs. Robin must have some babies," she said. "I wonder how many they have." She didn't know that Mrs. Robin was wondering the same thing about her family.
Mrs. Bluebird decided that she would watch; and when Mrs. Robin left her nest, she would look into it and see how many little birds were there.
There was another bird who was waiting a chance to get into Robin Red's nest, and that was Tattler the Jay. He didn't care how many little Robins were there. He wanted to raid the nest. He had seen Robin Red and Mrs. Robin go into the Red Cedar, carrying beetles and worms, and come out many times. He knew that they had a nest in it. And he was watching for a time when both of them would be away so that he could kill the Baby Robins and eat them.
Tattler the Jay Tries a Scheme
ROBIN RED and Mrs. Robin knew Tattler the Jay very well. They knew that he was not to be trusted. They were very careful not to leave their nest far, when they were searching for food for their babies, if Tattler was in sight. Always one of them stayed near the nest whenever his coarse voice was heard.
But Tattler the Jay wanted the Little Robins. He thought they would be a delicious meal for him, and he was determined to get them in one way or another. He was very shrewd in his way because he was a professional robber; that is, he made a business of stealing from other Wild Folks.
And so he waited patiently for a chance to kill the Baby Robins. He was trying to think of some way of getting Robin Red and Mrs. Robin to leave their nest at the same time so he could sneak in and do his cruel work.
Finally Tattler the Jay chuckled to himself. He had thought of a plan.
"Haw haw haw," he, laughed hoarsely. "I have it; I have it."
Tattler the Jay knew, that sometimes Robin Red had a hard time to find bugs and worms to feed his babies. He knew that Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird were also feeding a family, and between them and the Robins and Jenny Wren and other birds the insects were pretty well cleaned out around the Grand Old House.
The first thing Tattler the Jay did was to look for Noisy the English Sparrow. He found him just where he expected, and that was on the corral fence back of the Rambling Old Barn.
"I hear that Robin Red has a hard time to find enough food for the Little Robins," said Tattler to Noisy.
"Is that so?" asked Noisy.
You see Noisy isn't at all particular about what he eats, and he thought it was strange that anyone should have a hard time finding something to eat.
"If Robin Red only knew it, there are many, many bugs down by the Duck Pond in the Green Meadow," said Tattler the Jay.
Of course, Noisy the English Sparrow went straight and told Robin Red he heard that there were many, many bugs by the Duck Pond; and Robin Red told Mrs. Robin. The Robins talked it over, and Robin Red decided that he would go down by the Duck Pond and see if it were true. Tattler the Jay saw him when he left.
Mrs. Robin did her best to fill the hungry mouths while Robin Red was away. She had to work very hard. It seemed as if the Little Robins were always hungry. Each time she brought a bug or a worm she had to fly right back after another.
While she was in the Apple Orchard looking for a fat beetle, she met Bobby White.
"You seem to be very busy today," said Bobby.
"You would be too, if you had four babies to feed," said Mrs. Robin.
"Four babies," said Bobby White; "why, last year I had fourteen."
"Quite true," said Mrs. Robin, "but your babies hunt their own food after they are a day or two old."
Tattler the Jay saw Mrs. Robin visiting with Bobby White. He had been sitting in the Hedgerow watching for that very moment. His plan was working out just as he had expected it would. At last both Robin Red and Mrs. Robin were away from their nest.
So Tattler the Jay hopped through the Hedgerow until he could leave unseen. Then he flew swiftly to the Red Cedar tree where Robin Red had his nest. He perched on a near-by limb and looked in. There were the four very hungry Little Robins with outstretched necks and open mouths expecting their mother to drop something into them.
Jenny Wren was sitting in the currant bush by the front gate when Tattler the Jay arrived. She knew that he was up to mischief, for he had no business in the Red Cedar tree. Tattler the Jay had forgotten about Jenny Wren and the Bluebirds when he planned to get the Little Robins. He forgot about them entirely.
"Thief, thief, robber, robber!" shouted Jenny Wren.
Tattler the Jay was surprised, for he thought no one had seen him fly into the Red' Cedar tree, and he was very angry because his well-thought-out plan did not seem to be working now. Why didn't Jenny Wren mind her own business?
"Thief, thief, robber, robber!" shouted jenny Wren again, and Mr. Bluebird dashed to the Apple Orchard to tell Mrs. Robin.
"Hur-ry, hur-ry," he told her, "Tattler the Jay is after your babies."
It did not take Mrs. Robin long to fly back to her nest, and then how the feathers flew! She dashed right at Tattler the Jay and pulled a mouthful of feathers out of his saucy topknot before he knew that she was near. Jenny Wren hopped around in the Red Cedar and scolded him, and threatened to pick him with her long, sharp bill.
Tattler the Jay was having a very hard time, but not half so hard as he had after Robin Red returned from the Green Meadow. Robin Red chased him halfway to the Black Forest; and after Tattler the Jay got away, he was glad to hide in the dense trees while he smoothed his ruffled feathers.