First Flight

Sharon J. Morris

© Copyright 2020 by Sharon J. Morris

Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash
Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash

This story takes place in Irian Jaya, Indonesia when I was in junior high.

 My brother, Danny, announced at supper one evening, “I found a nest in the kasbi (cassava) patch with three small eggs in it.”

It was already getting dark, so I decided to wait until the next day to take a peek.

After breakfast, I took the binoculars with me to the kasbi patch. I found the nest and peeked inside. There were only two eggs!

What could have happened to the third egg? I wondered. If it had been a snake, it would have eaten all three eggs. I looked on the ground and didn’t see it. It sure was a mystery. The kasbi patch was near the gudang. I sat down on the ground and leaned against the cool blocks of the foundation of the gudang to wait and see what the parents looked like. 

It wasn’t long before a little speckled brown bird came to perch by the nest. I looked at it through the binoculars, admiring its intricacy. Because the little bird nestled the eggs, I assumed it was the mama. 

A short time later, a colorful mate showed up. He was blue with a splotch of green on the top of his head and a red breast. He perched next to the nest and started chirping. What a beautiful job God did when He created those birds, I thought to myself. I was thankful to see the pair come back to the nest, for I had heard that some birds abandon their nests after humans touch them.

Every day, usually in the late afternoon before supper, I went out to watch the nest with the binoculars. It was fun to see the male bring small insects to his mate who was sitting on the eggs. Then he would perch on a limb nearby and sing.

Danny wanted to look in the nest again, but I wouldn’t let him go near it. I didn’t want to chance chasing the parents away from the nest.

A week passed. When I looked through the binoculars at the nest once again, I could see a pair of beaks! I ran into the house to share the news that an egg had hatched. Mom was cooking supper and couldn’t leave the kerosene stove, and my sister Becci was too busy reading a book to care. Danny was somewhere with his friends. Fortunately, Dad was in his study, and I pulled at his hand, “Come see the baby birdie!”

Dad set aside his work of translating material into the Indonesian language for the Bible school students and followed me to the shed. Dad watched the nest through the binoculars in silence. Then he gave the binoculars back to me and said, “Look at what the father is doing.”

I peered through the binoculars. The daddy bird had a grasshopper in its mouth, and he was feeding the baby! Dad went back into the house, and I continued my vigil.

The baby bird didn’t have feathers on it yet, so I couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female. The baby bird grew rapidly. It wasn’t long before it started to sport pretty blue feathers with a splotch of green on the top of its head and a red breast, just like the daddy bird. I wondered how long it would be before he started to fly.

One evening after supper, I took the B section of the World Book Encyclopedias and looked up “birds” to see if I could find out anything about baby birds and how they learn to fly.

I read that parent birds begin to teach their fledglings the importance of flying by remaining a short distance away from the nest during feeding. If the young birds are to survive, they must step away from the nest. Frequently, this means a few hard falls to the ground followed by a long trip back to the safety of the nest.

It wasn’t long before the baby was perching on the edge of the nest, just like the encyclopedia had said it would. The daddy bird would hold out the insect to his son, just out of reach, so he had to hop out of the nest to get his supper. Then the baby bird hopped back into the nest, and the mama bird joined him shortly thereafter. She covered him with her feathers to keep him warm during the night.

For the next few days, the daddy bird would sit farther and farther away from the nest with the special supper he had caught for the fledgling. And the baby bird hopped farther and farther away from the nest to snatch the insect from his daddy’s beak. And he would have to hop back to the nest. I could see that he was getting stronger and braver every day.

Then one evening, after being fed, the little fellow turned away from the nest, fluttered his wings, and began to fly!

He didn’t make it very far before falling to the ground. But he was already into the jungle, and I couldn’t see him anymore. The mother and father followed the baby into the jungle, and that was the last I saw of them.

Then I remembered our cat! I ran to the house and asked my mom, “Where is Indah?”

“Outside somewhere. Why?”

“Because the little birdie just took its first flight, and it only made it to the edge of the jungle. I don’t want Indah to find it and eat it!”

Mom helped me track down the cat, which was lying unconcernedly on the table in the lean-to where the gasoline powered washing machine was kept.

Cat safely inside, I went back out to my perch by the gudang. I already missed my family of birdies. I remembered peeking at the two eggs and wondered why only one egg had hatched. It had been so much fun observing the parents feed the nestling and watching it grow its pretty feathers. But the best part of keeping track of the family was the awesomeness of watching the baby bird take its first flight.

I lived in Indonesia at age one through seventeen. I graduated from collage with BA in creative writing in 2013.

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