Level 1 Druids

In case my numerous previous allusions to being immensely nerdy didn’t drive the point home, this blog title probably will. I couldn’t resist throwing in a Dungeons and Dragons reference, now that I apparently live on a nature preserve, with robins and bees making a home in my yard. Druid characters in the game are known for having a strong connection to animals, as my husband and I keep pointing out to each other.

First, the robins. So far, they have been pretty decent new neighbours. They seem family-oriented, and while they keep to themselves, they’re pretty quiet. I have no complaints about them.

robin nest

Sorry the picture is a bit blurry. I didn’t want to get too close.

Actually, I should have complaints about them because I need to get part of the deck fixed right below them, and now this has to wait until the hatchlings have left the nest, but having robins living right outside my window is too exciting and I don’t currently care about the repairs.

As you can see, they built the nest on top of a pile of wood I left leaning against the wall under the overhang. I guess I’m not moving it for a while now. Lady Robin has been sitting in it almost constantly for slightly over a week. Apparently it takes 12-14 days for robin eggs to hatch, so she should have a batch of hideously adorable little hatchlings in the next week or so.

It

It’s, uh, beautiful 

Lady Robin leaves the nest pretty often, but only for a couple of minutes at a time. I’ve noticed Sir Robin seems to find food for her sometimes, and then she goes to get it quickly before returning. I put a dish of water near the nest to make things easier, and she knocks it off the edge of the deck railing when it gets empty, demanding I refill it. The robins will also become very upset if a magpie comes anywhere near, and they both swarm after it quite angrily. Witnessing their ferocity against magpies makes me very glad that they seem to have accepted us as regular fixtures in the back yard. Lady Robin doesn’t care when I move around the deck, even going quite close to her to check my potted tomatoes. Let’s hope she stays that way once the eggs have hatched.

The second part of our nature preserve is bumblebees. It turns out there is a small crack around the frame of one of our windows, and bumblebees are living inside. At first, I was a bit freaked out by this. I’m not particularly bothered by bumblebees (they are much less aggressive than wasps) and no one in our household has allergies to the stings, but the idea of them all living inside the wall was decidedly unsettling. However, when I talked to an exterminator, they told me they weren’t allowed to spray pollinators – and I realized I didn’t really want them sprayed either, because bee populations are dwindling and they are such a significant element of the ecosystem. With the thought that they could be relocated by someone with more expertise in bees in particular, I talked to a couple of beekeepers, and it was determined that taking apart the wall would be too invasive to be worth it. Also I did not really want my wall taken apart!

The bumblebees love the pink roses

The bumblebees love the pink roses

Fortunately, I learned that bumblebees only live in their hive for one season. In the fall, all of them will die, except for the queen, who will hibernate until spring and then go forth in search of a new nest location. Basically, if I wait until spring to close up the little crack with foam, this problem will pretty much take care of itself. I know it sounds weird, but I have started to like the bees as well. My flowers are doing better than ever, and the bees are so fuzzy and bumbling that you can really see how they got the name ‘bumblebees.’ I don’t think our hive is a very big one. I’m told the largest is usually about 250 bees, and I think ours is probably quite a bit less. I don’t really see them that often, except on the rose bush, and on the rare occasion one of them finds its way into the house (I believe through an invisible-to-me crack in the mortar, since there is a brick fireplace next to the infamous bee window). Maybe I’m giving the bees too much credit for communication, but I think they are learning not to come inside. Every time it happens, my cat terrorizes them until I can catch the bee in a jar and put it back outside. One of them bumbled its way into the house every day for three days in a row, but none have ever since.

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Oh, and if mention of my cat has raised the question of how the cat and the robins get along – my cat doesn’t go outside. She just watches them menacingly from the window and they stare back with what I assume to be a smug expression. Robins don’t have much expression though, really. 

It’s said that the fleur-de-lys symbol of France is meant to represent a bee. With my book The Wardrobe Mistress coming out next year, this little connection with the bees is kind of fun.

fleurdelis bee

With all these wild animals making their homes right around our house, my husband and I joked that one of us must be a druid (see, I’m not alone in my D&D nerdery). I thought since we have two different species, we should jokingly rank ourselves higher than level 1, maybe level 5. However, I was briskly informed that being a level 5 druid means you can communicate with animals like bears. I guess robins and bees are a little tamer than that.

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Coincidentally, my mom found this picture online today and showed me. Whoever lives here must be at least a level 5 druid. 

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