"The birds are back," my wife said, and I paused: I wasn't aware they were gone. But she notices birds more than I do. I notice birdsong, but not its absence. The last bird that made any impression on me was at the restaurant by the beach on our vacation, because it came in screeching like it wanted to see the manager, grabbed half a hamburger and flew off. Stupid bird: The hamburgers weren't any good.

"In the gazebo," she added, and I understood. And my heart sank.

"Same birds?" I said, as if one could tell.

"That's what I wondered! Yesterday they were just checking it out, but today they started bringing in twigs."

"Market's tight. They probably waived inspection. Well, I hope it's all for the best."

We had birds nesting in the gazebo last year, and it did not go well. I'd like to say that all the chicks thrived and survived, each getting a hug from Mom and a manly pat — and a savings bond — from Dad before they flew off, and then the parents looked into the sky with a sudden sense of aching vacancy. Oh, it would be OK. Mom would get into volunteering, and Dad would putter around the nest, whistling aimlessly in that way he had.

I'd like to say that. Instead, we got a front-row seat for the brutal indifference of nature. With the first family, mom duly sat atop the eggs, but once they were hatched, she seemed to vanish for long periods, and we'd hear the pitiful cheeping of the hungry brood; I almost called Chick Protective Services on her.

In due time they stepped out of the nest, huddled on the beam, and tried to fly. One of them dropped right to the pavers. That had to hurt.

My wife put it back, and I thought this was a bad idea. In cold evolutionary terms, you want to winnow out the weak and dumb, but a man standing there darwinsplaining things is no match for a woman who sees a hapless infant, dazed, probably seeing stars march around its head like in the cartoons. She put it back.

Another bird had the misfortune to launch itself into the world at the precise moment Birch the dog was strolling past. The chick's brash sally into the world lasted 1.7 seconds. Surprise: crunchy, warm sky-treats! It's like getting your diploma at a graduation ceremony, but a bear bounds across the stage and eats you whole.

"I thought I should put some pillows down this year when they're ready to jump," she said.

"Why not a small trampoline?" I wondered. "That would be cute."

Then I tried to reason with her: "Look, birds fall out of the nest all the time. And yet there are birds in abundance. This has to be figured into the whole bird population thing. That's why they make extras."

"But the patio is hard," she said. "Not like the woods."

"Right, but if a bird falls 40 feet out of a tree, I'm not saying he's going to have a concussion, but they're going to take him to the blue tent for observation."

It's cute and fun when they're small and chirpy, but no one wants a large bird nesting in the gazebo. I don't want an owl up there turning its head 180 degrees to stare at me when I sit down to enjoy a morning cup of coffee. Yeah, hoooo, professor, go linda-blair somewhere else. Get back to me when you figure out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll?

(OK, that was too boomer. You kids, make up your own joke about Hedwig the Harry Potter owl or something.)

I would not want an eagle looking down at me with that look of fierce annoyance, as though I should be off defending our democracy instead of reading the paper. "A well-informed citizenry is essential for a robust republic," I'd snap. (Eagle glares.) "Yes, I'm reading 'Blondie' at the moment, but I already read the editorials." (Eagle glares.) "Well, I actually only read the headlines of the editorials, but I agreed with them, that counts." (Eagle ruffles its feathers) "OK, OK. I'll read about the necessity of a strong NATO, but I was already previously disposed to a multilateral approach to ablate Russian expansionism. Jeez."

I would like some hummingbirds, because I think they live their entire life on fast forward and probably would build a nest and raise a brood in 24 hours. Or 12, if I set out some demitasses of espresso.

Anyway, the birds may have decided to nest elsewhere. They dropped some string and twigs in a crook, but didn't come back. I'm loath to clean it out, lest they return to finish the nest, but after 30 days they're probably legally entitled to my entire house, and I'd have to go to court to remove them.

Well, there's always the shed. Unless the mice have made an "adverse possession" claim and taken that, too.