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Day One
IMG_4034-vert-web * A Red-winged Blackbird nest was found at the south end of Chicago's Lincoln Park North Pond on July 4, 2007.  The nest was built in a stand of Saw-tooth Sunflower (Helianthus Grosseserratus M. Martens).  These fast-growing plants grow up to 3 meters in height, and bloom beginning in July.  When the nest was started it was likely well-concealed in dense vegetation; however, with the nest taking 3-6 days to construct, and a 10-12 day incubation period, the rapid growth of the sunflowers resulted in the nest being well out in the open. At the time the nest was discovered, the female was making regular visits to the nest with food, but the offspring could not be seen.  Presumably they were still quite small and hidden in the bowl built of rushes.  This image was taken July 8, my first opportunity to return to the nest. * A Red-winged Blackbird nest was found at the south end of Chicago's Lincoln Park North Pond on July 4, 2007.  The nest was built in a stand of Saw-tooth Sunflower (Helianthus Grosseserratus M. Martens).  These fast-growing plants grow up to 3 meters in height, and bloom beginning in July.  When the nest was started it was likely well-concealed in dense vegetation; however, with the nest taking 3-6 days to construct, and a 10-12 day incubation period, the rapid growth of the sunflowers resulted in the nest being well out in the open. At the time the nest was discovered, the female was making regular visits to the nest with food, but the offspring could not be seen.  Presumably they were still quite small and hidden in the bowl built of rushes.  This image was taken July 8, my first opportunity to return to the nest.
P1010133-web * The nest was located in the stand of sunflowers indicated by the red arrow, in a small triangular planting bordered on all sides by well-used pedestrian paths.  The proximity and frequency of traffic meant that the female was rather used to human presence; if I hid behind my camera, she was little disturbed by my presence. * The nest was located in the stand of sunflowers indicated by the red arrow, in a small triangular planting bordered on all sides by well-used pedestrian paths.  The proximity and frequency of traffic meant that the female was rather used to human presence; if I hid behind my camera, she was little disturbed by my presence.
IMG_4152-web * The nest was a work of art, and she performed periodic maintenance checks in addition to tending to her young. * The nest was a work of art, and she performed periodic maintenance checks in addition to tending to her young.
IMG_4206-web * Nearby North Pond was a bountiful source of insects, including the occasional dragonfly. * Nearby North Pond was a bountiful source of insects, including the occasional dragonfly.
  Day One  
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IMG_4214-web * Making sure it goes down all the way (gag!) * Making sure it goes down all the way (gag!)
IMG_4254-web * Inspecting the gapes of the three offspring to see who needs feeding. * Inspecting the gapes of the three offspring to see who needs feeding.
IMG_4272-web * On pooper scooper duty... * On pooper scooper duty...
IMG_4277-alt3-web * Feeding time! * Feeding time!
Day Two * I returned the following day to document the progress of the nestlings, to find a disaster had struck.  Someone or something had knocked over the sunflowers supporting the nest (winds were gusty that first day, but I don't think they could have blown the sunflowers over).  The nest was steeply tilted over, and only two nestlings were to be seen.  The remaining pair seemed listless, and the mother was only coming sporadically to feed them.   I was so distraught I soon left, without taking any pictures.   Without such an exposed and distressed nest site, the young birds seemed doomed. * I returned the following day to document the progress of the nestlings, to find a disaster had struck.  Someone or something had knocked over the sunflowers supporting the nest (winds were gusty that first day, but I don't think they could have blown the sunflowers over).  The nest was steeply tilted over, and only two nestlings were to be seen.  The remaining pair seemed listless, and the mother was only coming sporadically to feed them.   I was so distraught I soon left, without taking any pictures.   Without such an exposed and distressed nest site, the young birds seemed doomed.
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  Day Two  
IMG_4382-web * This was taken on Day Three, but illustrates the degree to which the nest was compromised by the supporting sunflower stems being knocked over. * This was taken on Day Three, but illustrates the degree to which the nest was compromised by the supporting sunflower stems being knocked over.
Day Three
IMG_4399-web * I returned once more on the third day, perhaps out of morbid fascination -- I thought there was little chance the remaining pair of nestlings would survive.  They were however hanging on, clamoring for food... * I returned once more on the third day, perhaps out of morbid fascination -- I thought there was little chance the remaining pair of nestlings would survive.  They were however hanging on, clamoring for food...
IMG_4506-web * ...and Mom was still tending to them... * ...and Mom was still tending to them...
IMG_4922-web * The chicks were hanging on, indeed had grown since that first day.  Mom was making regular food runs... * The chicks were hanging on, indeed had grown since that first day.  Mom was making regular food runs...
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  Day Three  
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IMG_4812-web * ...and trying to hold together what was left of the nest. * ...and trying to hold together what was left of the nest.
IMG_4865-web * The kids meanwhile were engaged in the usual sibling squabbles... * The kids meanwhile were engaged in the usual sibling squabbles...
Day Four
IMG_4969-web * I returned again the fourth day, to find only a single offspring on the nest.  Had a second one fallen off the nest and met an untimely end?  The one that remained was receiving regular feedings, but could it survive in the face of such adversity? * I returned again the fourth day, to find only a single offspring on the nest.  Had a second one fallen off the nest and met an untimely end?  The one that remained was receiving regular feedings, but could it survive in the face of such adversity?
IMG_4989-web * And then I noticed some movement at the end of the fallen flower stalks.  It was the second nestling -- it had fledged!
Mom came to feed it several times. * And then I noticed some movement at the end of the fallen flower stalks.  It was the second nestling -- it had fledged!
Mom came to feed it several times.
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  Day Four  
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IMG_5025-web * Another view of the fledgling, with the fallen sunflowers to the left.  So perhaps all was not gloom and doom after all... * Another view of the fledgling, with the fallen sunflowers to the left.  So perhaps all was not gloom and doom after all...
IMG_5067-web * And then, after another half hour had passed, I noticed a rustling in tall vegetation rather far from the nest, and the mother came in with food to that area.  Peering in, I saw the third chick peering back -- somehow it had survived!  Perhaps it had fallen from the nest.  Nevertheless it had survived, and mom had continued to look after it.  What a super mom!  She had managed to raise all three of her chicks to fledging in spite of all adversity to come her way. * And then, after another half hour had passed, I noticed a rustling in tall vegetation rather far from the nest, and the mother came in with food to that area.  Peering in, I saw the third chick peering back -- somehow it had survived!  Perhaps it had fallen from the nest.  Nevertheless it had survived, and mom had continued to look after it.  What a super mom!  She had managed to raise all three of her chicks to fledging in spite of all adversity to come her way.
IMG_5123-web * I left buoyed by the sight of three young blackbirds, stretching their wings toward the future. * I left buoyed by the sight of three young blackbirds, stretching their wings toward the future.
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