Place Where You Live:

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Spotted Towhee Nest with Eggs

They won’t let us alone about the drought. The water company bills arrive with clear instructions. I can water three days a week; no new turf; no washing of cars or patios; no letting water escape; no pool, no spa.

And this is all perfectly fine. I am tired of watching our forests burn. I don’t want to wake up to smoke fuzzy-ing up the sun. I hate the new vocabulary of weather reports. Critical fire weather. Red flag warning.

My biggest drought hurdle so far was making peace with the bark beetles. Our weakest trees can’t fight these opportunists. I won’t waste precious water helping the doomed trees, or spray them with nasty chemicals that will sicken us along with our birds and bees and other creatures. I believe the experts when they tell us that our juniper-pinion woodland is transitioning to grassland.

But when my friends, the ten old, fragrant honeysuckle bushes in the front yard begin to struggle, I forget all about understanding. Not the honeysuckle. Not my survivors. Not these reminders of similar bushes from childhood when I first fell in love with being outside.

I investigate. And it’s bad. There are so few new leaves, and too much dead wood. I research honeysuckle upkeep and the advice comes back every which way. Yes, prune them radically. No, just take out the dead wood. Leave them alone entirely. Go ahead; confuse me some more.

And then Nature intervenes and brings me up short. I see a spotted towhee at the base of one of the honeysuckles. She has a beak full of stripped bark. Nesting material. I watch her make many trips, deep into one of the honeysuckles. When she finally flies off, I explore. With so few leaves, I see the new nest right away. Over the next few days, I find three eggs. Soon there are chicks. They survive and fledge.

Without the drought and leaf loss, no easy nest discovery. And without that discovery, no chance to cheer for one bird who manages to keep going.