The Manatee and the Robin


manatee in ft lauderdale.jpg
This manatee floated up to the surface in one of the canals in Ft. Lauderdale when I was there a week ago. It was a magnificent creature and stayed with us quite a while — sort of posing.
Maybe since Spring is upon us, I’ve been more tuned into nature than normal. For instance, I have been somewhat obsessed with this huge robin trying to build a nest on my front porch — at the top of a column under the roof’s interior edge.
In fact, I just posted this on my twitter update and on facebook:

Steve thinks there must be an economic policy metaphor somewhere in that a robin is trying hard to unsuccessfully build a nest on his front porch.

Perhaps the best reply on Facebook has thus far come from Michele Wucker who heads the World Policy Institute in New York. She wrote:

at the risk of being super wonkish: let’s break down the reasons why the nest is not working.
Not enough twigs, string, or other construction materials? materials stolen by competitors? immigration raids on undocumented robin construction workers? unstable location? too easily reached by cats? lack of technical skill by said robin? not enough robins to make a Spring? exploding ARM on nest means not enough capital for building?

The real reason the nest is not taking was lack of foundation. The edge the bird wants to live on is just inadequate. I could try and build out the platform a bit — but others in this household don’t want to make those sorts of loans. In the mean time I have a huge mess of really good bird nesting material all over my porch.
Robert Schlesinger of US News & World report writes:

Humph. I wonder if I could make an economic policy metaphor out of the bird that keeps flying into my office window.

stopping the robin nest building 2.jpgTony Fleming of InterAction zaps me with:

No, Steve… it’s just a sign of spring (and perhaps that you’re looking for wonk where no wonk exists.) 😉

My high school friend Paul D’Anna churlishly offers:

It’s systemic risk vs. morale hazard. Do we bail out the little robin and help it build it’s nest when we know the little robin shouldn’t have ever qualified for the interest-only mortgage loan in the first place? it’s a bad choice to begin with. How will the little bird ever learn that it’s got to live within it’s means? Who signed into legislation these nest building swaps anyway? And what is Steve’s cut? The public won’t tolerate any more taxpayer funded bonus payouts.

UPI Editor Emeritus and AT Kearney Global Business Policy Council Senior Director Martin Walker writes:

a bird in the nest is worth two on the porch…

That sounds like Walker wants me to build out the platform.
I couldn’t take it anymore — and just put up a smiling yellow rubber duck with sun glasses to encourage the robin to look for opportunity elsewhere.
— Steve Clemons


18 comments on “The Manatee and the Robin

  1. Kathleen G says:

    Actually I was 14 and with the pack of teenagers I was with….alligators what alligators? We were nuts and full meals


  2. Don Bacon says:

    You were probably swimming with alligators too and didn’t know it. But then, you were only five or so and not a full meal.


  3. Kathleen G says:

    great story
    Had the privilige to swim with manatees in the St Johns river just outside of Jacksonville Fla 42 years ago. what gentle beautiful creatures


  4. Don Bacon says:

    Thanks for that, Carroll, and to your auntie.
    Global warming is disrupting avian migration patterns and pushing birds further north.


  5. Carroll says:

    Gee..I haven’t thought about the birds in a while. I don’t see as many Cardinals and Robins as I use to but we still have little tiny humming birds that feed off the honeysuckle and other flowering bushes.
    I had a childless auntie that use to drag me all over on bird watching trips when I was young.
    Here’s a tip she taught me. If you have a window or big glass door that birds fly into and knock themselves out you can most often save them. Usually they are just stunned and go into shock and that is what kills them. If you pick it up and wrap it in something like a hand towel to keep it warm and very,very,very gently stroke it’s chest and wing back area it will recover from the shock. Don’t hold it on it’s back while doing this, hold it in it’s normal belly down and head slighty up position or slightly on it’side. When it starts to flutter a bit hold it until the flutter becomes a tad stronger and it starts to struggle and then turn it lose by putting it on the ground or porch and it will get it’s bearing and fly again. I did this numerous times when we had a house with a big glass door that birds flew into and it does work.


  6. Don Bacon says:

    Think of Steve as the robin’s batman, or orderly. The dynamic duo.


  7. don nash says:

    Jeez Steve, looks like you sabotaged the nest site. What’s a matter,
    are you a ‘anti-robinite’?


  8. David says:

    Not sure if it was a robin, but a bird built a nest in a box of tools I’d left open in the doorless garage (this is a seasoned garage whose door was better removed than rehabilitated, though the cracker construction garage was unfazed by Hurricane Frances, which essentially parked here on the edge of the Green Swamp for a couple of hours, then moseyed off in a bit more northerly direction).
    My dad, who lived to be 98, died two years ago. I was his primary caregiver during the last 8 years, when he could no longer be totally self-sufficient, though his mind was clear and sharp to the end. I remember the power of little things like this to put a wonderful smile on his face.
    Visiting this site never disappoints, and for a marvellous variety of reasons.


  9. Maureen O'Brien says:

    Something I learned when a robin nested on my patio light is that they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. You’d be surprised how little space they need for a nest. Our robin produced five baby robins in a space no bigger than what you have pictured.


  10. Taylor Marsh says:

    Well, if you play architect for the Robin you won’t regret it, Steve.
    As a bird lover I’ve had peacocks on my property (before I moved to D.C.), also watching the pea hen hatch and raise her peacock baby, which required help from me. See, peacocks kill their young, so it took a lot to keep him away from the young chick. It’s never easy, but is a wonderful thing. The resulting peacock story truly a marvel.
    …and to Lurker, I know it’s terribly difficult, but I wish you great strength.


  11. Linda says:

    Jimmy Carter is a master at woodwork. Every year at one of Carter Center’s major fundraisers they auction off a gorgeous piece of furniture–table, chest, whatever made by Carter. He definitely could build a bird house.


  12. Don Bacon says:

    If it had been the manatee with the housing problem I would have have suggested calling Jimmy Carter and his Habitat for Humanatee but I’m stumped with a robin, except to say that you could have paid someone to build a nest and just put it on his bill.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well Steve, if the robin was human, something tells me it would be pushing a shopping cart full of empty water bottles, plastic bags, and an old musty blanket. Let me know if it starts chirpin’ some bird talk at Mr.Rubber Ducky, could be you just gave the poor misfit the only true friend its ever had.
    And, uh, just because the cops in DC are pushing the homeless out, doesn’t mean you gotta follow suit.


  14. ... says:

    can someone tell me the difference between twitter and facebook, or are they something very similar?


  15. Spunkmeyer says:

    And, while I’m humorously tweaking your nose, Steve, what
    service did the manatee float up to… cocktail service? Full service
    gas pump at a marina?


  16. Spunkmeyer says:

    To misquote Freud, sometimes a nest is just a nest.


  17. Linda says:

    It’s geography. The robin is trying to build something simple, useful/practical, understandable and good. But she’s inside the Beltway where that is next to impossible to do.


  18. Lurker says:

    Steve, my mother is very ill at the moment, and I just read her your note and showed her the pictures, and I haven’t seen her smile and giggle about anything more in weeks. Thanks for this refreshing, special note.


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