Friday, March 7, 2014

The Monogamous Couple on the Electric Pole.

I keep worrying about the family I left behind this summer. They just seemed like they needed a little more help than the other families. They were living outside the balcony window, atop the electric pole.

They're a family of storks.

Storks choose one mate for life. They raise their children together in one nest and if something happens to one of them, the other one stays alone for the rest of its life.

When I arrived in Margariti in 1983, there were stork nests everywhere.

This giant nest on the old house had the first stork couple that I'd become acquainted with. They clacked their beaks loudly every morning and then swooped down to pick up, snakes and other tasty treats, as well as dried sticks and grass for their nest, where they'd tend to their children whose black beaks indicated that they were too young to fly.

But by the end of August those beaks were as red as their parents'. So, those young adolescents would begin flying from the nest, first in small circles--wobbling through the air with parental guidance, later flying far from the nest, away from the watchful eyes.

Then one day, all the swallows that had lived under the balconies and the eaves of the village houses, would line the electric wires like a Hitchcock movie. It signaled an end to the summer, for the very next day, both the swallows and the storks would be gone--on their way to Africa. It was actually a bit eerie. We'd awaken the next morning without the noise of those clacking beaks that had been present every morning before, and every nest would be completely empty--no storks to be seen anywhere, the swallow nests also vacant. And of course, it would be time for us to leave too.

The storks made their nests mostly on telephone poles. You can see one in the picture to the right.

But several years ago, the town government put large plastic containers at the top of the poles so the birds could build their nests inside them. Before that, storks would occasionally be electrocuted when the straw of their nest touched a live wire.

That nest in the photo is actually directly across from our present-day balcony. We watched that same couple raise their little ones over many years, the babies flying away, the parents moving to Africa for the winter and then returning to the same nest every summer to raise the new batch of babies--the cycle renewed. I didn't think much about it until a few years ago when one stork came back alone.

That bird sat by itself in the nest all summer and again the following summer until one year no bird returned and the nest was left empty for several years.

This past summer, however, a new young stork started checking out that location.

Eventually there were two of them and they  worked to fill the plastic container with straw and sticks.  It was a little late in the summer for setting up house, so at first I thought they were just using that pole to rest.

I snapped this photo of the reflection in the balcony door, one morning while I was sitting there.  You can see one of the storks  working with the beginnings of a nest.

And a few weeks later there were baby birds in that nest.

I watched them each morning as they grew, but when the swallows lined the electric wires, those babies still had not left the nest. And the next day when every swallow and stork nest was supposed to be vacant, that one family was still there.

On our last day in Margariti, I saw the baby birds being taught to fly. I hope they were able to make it down to Africa without the help of the flock.

I tend to think that the parents, with their adventurous spirit, having waited longer than the rest of the flock to have their children (Maybe it took time to find that right mate), were resourceful enough to get the family south. I hope I'm right.

I'd love to hear from you!


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