The Incredible Power of Nurturing
By Nancy Zwiers
This spring (early here in sunny California), I witnessed the incredible power of Nature and her amazing nurturing instinct.
The story begins when my partner, Jim Mital, hung a hummingbird feeder in our backyard last year…for months, Jim (an amateur photographer) and I enjoyed watching the hummingbirds come and feed. We have since read that a feeder can help make a spot feel more hospitable to a mommy bird canvassing locations for a nest. Easy access to critical resources like food are not to be underestimated and feeders make it much easier for moms to feed their young:
But we don’t know this on February 11th when I stumbled upon a little nest while trimming one of my palm trees in the backyard. It was a thrilling discovery! Mama Bird was amazingly still as she sat on her eggs, and I thought about how much patience we humans also need to be good mothers:
We set up the ladder in the yard so we could more easily check in on how mom was doing every day (ok, numerous times a day). We were not able to see the eggs, but we knew they were there as mom faithfully sat still for hours on end. Soon we were able to see that the mom sat higher in the nest—we hypothesized that the babies had been born:
Eventually, we were rewarded with our first glimpse of the two baby birds, waiting for mom to return with much needed food:
Soon, the babies began to fill the nest as their well-nourished bodies began to grow and develop fluffy feathers. When we first spotted tiny black clumps on the rim of the nest, we hypothesized that mom was leaving bugs for the babies to eat. But one day, as I was watching, one little chick picked up her little rear, gave it a wiggle, and black poop shot straight out. The mystery was solved—the birdies apparently knew they shouldn’t poop where they sleep. BTW, eventually, the tree was filled with baby bird poop—I guess all babies are prolific in this way:
The babies continued to grow, and we could see that their eyes had opened. They sure looked snug in that tiny nest. It was so fun to see how they kept shifting their positions in the nest—one time being side by side, the next looking in opposite directions, and so on:
On March 10, 30 days after we first discovered the nest, the birdies were clearly bursting at the seams—we suspected they would be getting ready to “fly the coop” very soon. Our monitoring picked up speed as we made sure to guard the chicks from our two cats who roam the backyard freely:
Two days later, we saw the nest was empty (no pic) but were then delighted to discover our little siblings side-by-side on a tree branch in the backyard:
The grand finale came when we were rewarded with a National Geographic-style photo of momma bird feeding her chicks. We noticed there was little size difference, but the mom was sleek and the babies were still fluffy:
So, what does this have to do with play?
As someone who has spent 30+ years immersed in the play industry, I am continually struck by the power and consistency of core play patterns, such as nurturing.
Play is a biological drive and Nature gives us these play drives so we can survive and reproduce as adults. We sometimes forget we too are animals, driven by instinct in ways we are not fully conscious of. It’s like Nature is pulling our strings. Seeing this profound display of Nature’s nurturing instinct unfolding before our eyes reinforces the importance of core play patterns (such as nurturing) in the context of play as a biological drive.
And finally, doesn’t experiencing the wonder of Nature-- up close and personal-- bring a child-like joy to your heart too?
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