Nearly everyone remembers a brief, often scary time. Usually, it comes within months of high school graduation. It’s time to leave the familiarity of home and venture out on new endeavors. Change is often exciting but it requires venturing out into the unknown – often alone.
Rich remembers moving from New Jersey to a state he’d never been to, Idaho, to start college. Within days he was sworn into the Army as a student soldier. Lots of change.
Marion ventured forth in the same year but not quite so far. Her launching took her to Plymouth State University a ways north of her home.
Wildlife babies face many of the same huge life changes and uncertainties that we did, but they do it at a much younger age. When we walk along early summer trails, we often see baby cottontail bunnies. Some are no bigger than our hands, but they are on their own in a world full of bunny hazards. They must learn how to find food, water, and shelter while all sorts of predators try to make them food.
In June we watched several broods of house wrens fledge from boxes we put up near our kitchen window and in the garden. Earlier we’d seen mom and dad bring in sticks to make a nest. Then we didn’t see them often for a couple of weeks as they incubated their tiny reddish eggs.
On a miraculous day, those eggs become hungry but helpless babies. Mom and dad worked endlessly catching and delivering juicy caterpillars and adult insects to feed the youngsters a high-protein diet. They grow quickly, and a couple of weeks after hatching we see beaks poking out the birdhouse entrance.
It must be scary venturing forth, but mom and dad encourage them to fledge. Out they go. But life is not easy. They need to learn how to fly, where to find food, and how to be safe. Parents help for a while but soon they are on their own while mom and dad make a new nest and raise a second brood.
Launching…. fledging……is a tough transition time for people, bunnies, birds, and just about any other young animal.