Susan scooped me on the backyard’s newest tenants, a mating pair of sparrows that are moving into a paper lantern dangling from the northeast corner of the house and busy constructing a nest within it.

Being made of the aforementioned paper, the lanterns (there’s another hung from the southeast corner) are actually in pretty sad shape. They were old to begin with, but have spent the better part of the past year outside losing a slow battle to the elements.

Such dilapidated condition doesn’t bother the birdies one bit. Personally I’d been planning on replacing them sometime soon, but obviously I’ll be putting that plan on hold until any offspring have flown the coop. And in the interim I have unplugged the cord to the bulb that goes on at dusk and off at dawn inside the lantern. While the ambient heat might aid any egg’s incubation period, I’m pretty sure that once the little brown birds finish their project and move in full-time the last thing they’d want to be sitting directly next to all night is 75 watts of energy-saver lightbulb going full blast. So off with it.

Over the weekend Susan fretted maternally about the slow progress the birds were making Saturday and wanted to lend a hand by putting back any twigs and fluff that had fallen out the bottom of the lantern, but she readily understood the importance of leaving the birds to their own trial-and-error devices — and it’s paid off. By yesterday morning it was awesome to see all their tireless work take shape in the form of a rapidly developing nest that they’ve anchored to the bottom of the sphere by poking a good number of twigs through the paper.

Even something as miniscule as two sparrows going through the seasonal motions leaves me awestruck. I marvel at the genius of the birds scoping out and choosing the lantern within which to raise this spring’s chicks. Though it only provides a wafer-thin barrier of protection, it is situated in isolation under the protective cover of the house’s eave and is pretty much inaccessible by anything greater than an insect or a spider.