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Lessons in nature can begin in our yards

A newborn cardinal hatchling lies next to an unhatched egg in a nest. The scene is similar to one this week in an Atlanta yard where a cracked egg with an emerging hatchling was returned to its nest after it had fallen to the ground. PASONS1/CREATIVE COMMONS
A newborn cardinal hatchling lies next to an unhatched egg in a nest. The scene is similar to one this week in an Atlanta yard where a cracked egg with an emerging hatchling was returned to its nest after it had fallen to the ground. PASONS1/CREATIVE COMMONS

Charles Seabrook’s “Wild Georgia” column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping us homebound these days, our connections with nature may extend no farther than our yards. Even so, if we pay close attention, our yards also can nurture a keen awareness of the natural world around us.

Rosemary Halicki, 11, found that out this week at her home in Atlanta’s Ormewood Park section. While she was walking around her yard, her sharp eyes spied a bluish, grey-flecked songbird egg lying on the driveway and nearly blending in with the pavement. On closer inspection, she saw a crack in the shell and something moving slightly inside the small egg — a tiny baby bird apparently trying to emerge

She quickly told her dad, Michael Halicki (who is director of Park Pride that helps communities in Atlanta and DeKalb County improve their parks). He immediately called his fellow Ormewood Park resident Joy Carter, an Atlanta Audubon volunteer, for advice.

Carter suggested the Halickis look for the nest somewhere nearby and try to put the egg back into it. A quick search at first yielded no results. Then, Rosemary insisted they look more closely around a nearby bush for the nest. Her dad even lay on the ground to look up into the bush. And that’s when he found it — a nest lying just above his head.

Standing on a chair, he peered into the nest and saw another egg like the one they had just found — a cardinal egg. He gently placed the cracked egg with its emerging hatchling next to the other egg. Since then, the Halickis have been watching the presumably happy male and female cardinals flying back and forth to the nest, tending to their young.

“I know Rosemary never will look at a cardinal the same way,” said her dad. “It was an amazing experience … and a memory that neither of us is likely to forget.”

If you also find a baby bird that has fallen from its nest, Atlanta Audubon offers good advice on what you can do to help the baby. Visit: https://www.atlantaaudubon.org/news-feed/help-ive-found-a-baby-bird.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be in its last quarter on Tuesday. Venus is low in the west at dusk and sets an hour later. Mars rises about four hours before sunrise. Jupiter and Saturn rise in the east just after midnight.