New Kensington,  Outdoors,  Uncategorized,  Western Pennsylvania

Not-So-Silent Spring

2013-06-15 birds-032

There are many different ways to spend the weekend of Father’s Day. Jonathan and I spent today at a birthday picnic for my sister Liz at my parents’ house.  Other families attend Fly-In Breakfasts at airports.  Although Jon and I didn’t go near any planes for this occasion, we still witnessed a prime example this weekend of avian parenting.

A few weeks ago, we observed a robin attempting to build a nest above our front door. Sadly, the materials intended for the nest mostly ended up on the floor of our porch. We wondered whether the ledge above our front door was actually big enough to support the project. Each day, the pile of dried grass at the foot of our front door was larger than it had been the day before. When we heard a bird chirp, we joked that some poor male robin was being chewed out by a female robin for not being successful enough at nest-building. Then I discovered through scientific research on Wikipedia that the female robin actually builds the nest by herself. 

One evening after a hard rain, we found a completed nest above our door. We un-scientifically theorized that the bird finally obtained enough wet grass and mud to hold the nest together. The bird slept in the nest for a week or two, and then a few days ago, we found fragments of blue eggshells on our porch.

Yesterday was the first day that we were able to see two little beaks reaching up out of the nest. I watched, fascinated, as two adult robins took turns bringing food to the beaks constantly throughout the day. My knowledge of the species is limited to Wikipedia; however, the adults appear to be good bird parents. I tried not to interfere or get too close when I photographed the bird family yesterday; however, I believe that I scared one of the adults, causing him or her to lay down on top of the chicks for awhile. It is now after dark on Sunday evening, I am sitting on our front porch writing this blog entry, and there is currently an adult robin sleeping on top of the nest.

I keep thinking about the work of conservation pioneers. One highly influential individual has a strong connection to my neighborhood of Parnassus, New Kensington, PA. Rachel Carson was born across the Allegheny River in Springdale, but she completed high school in Parnassus in 1925.

By the way, the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge (an annual event held on the Rachel Carson Trail across the river)  is next Saturday, and the Rachel Carson Homestead will be open for tours that day as well.  Since the New Kensington Bureau of Fire’s annual Community Days is also next weekend, I am not yet sure whether I will have a chance to get out and tour Ms. Carson’s birthplace. However, I wanted to note that I cross the Allegheny River four times each weekday while commuting to and from work. and looking at the river is my favorite part of my trip these days. I recognize that the river quality has improved in the past decades due to the tireless work and sacrifices of environmentalists, and I feel a connection in knowing that Rachel Carson regularly crossed this same river in her day-to-day life.


  • Sarah

    How neat! And what a great picture! I haven’t heard any peeping from the nest under our deck yet, but I think we may have some new little winged neighbors soon.

  • Jenny

    Thanks for the comments, guys! When I first tried to photograph the birds, I scared the adults and they either flew away or sat on top of their chicks. Then I asked Jonathan to set a camera up on his tripod facing the nest, and I sat on a different section of our porch and took the photos remotely the next time I observed feeding time.