There was a house finch nest nearby, on the way around the bend. The nest was high up, balanced precariously between the two-sided corner of a house and the crook in a drainage pipe right under the roof (which formed the third makeshift "wall"). The location was not quite ideal, as the fourth side of the nest was left entirely exposed, but the ingenuity of such a high-up hideaway was commendable.
Occasionally two house finches would make their way to our yard, sit atop the fence and then quickly make their way back to their woven-grass home. One week though, it was unusually windy. The next morning, I walked around the way to check on the nest: it was still there. With a sigh of relief, I calmed my mind; told myself that the nesting pair and their brood would be fine.
A few days later, I saw an adult house finch sitting on the telephone wire across the way feeding what I would later deduce to be its baby. The smaller finch was speckled brown, could even be described as borderline gray in color, but was almost the size of the parent. Its reliance on the adult bird for food was obvious, instinctual even. Soon, the duo flew out of view.
I was left wondering why the chick was not in its nest, given its age and size. At that point, I decided to check on the nest--it was, as you've likely guessed, no longer in its location: it was on the cement floor below, split into two, likely upon sudden impact with the ground.
Terrified, I was afraid to shift the remainder of the nest on the ground. I was frozen, afraid to touch the two nest pieces for fear that another baby lay underneath, cold and dead--or half dead. My mind raced as I imagined that there could be more than one chick. Where would I put them? Would the parents know to come back?
All the possible outcomes of the situation swam rampantly in my mind, chaos unchecked.
I shifted my foot forward and softly touched the fallen nest with the heavy toe box. Still, I could not tell if anything was underneath. If there was a bird there, I would need a backup plan to save it. Or them. Taking a deep breath, I attempted to muster up some courage to turn the two portions of the nest over.
What would I use as a tool to turn over the nest pieces, since my foot was too heavy?
A small stick would suffice, I thought.
Once a stick that suited my vision was found, I carefully lifted the larger part of the nest in a slow, steady motion. The nest was heavier than I thought. Densely packed and the grass fully dried, it gave the appearance of thickly woven sturdiness despite the two-story fall.
I held my breath--
And there was nothing underneath the nest. Not even a feather. I breathed a sign of relief. Then I turned over the smaller fallen nest portion, which also held nothing underneath. Elated, I smiled. The best possible outcome came true.
Thinking back, the baby I saw with the parent on the telephone wire must have been nearly full grown--and the only surviving one from before the nest's fall. The chick's weight and restlessness must have caused the nest to teeter back and forth, consequently making it fall at the exposed area where a fourth wall or protrusion would have held the home securely in place. Then it hit me: any younger, the chick would not have been able to physically fly to safety. Lucky baby bird.