Once the nest was complete, the female laid two eggs. Trying not to be too intrusive, Bill monitored the activity and repositioned the nest when it started to slide off the crossbar. Finally, the eggs hatched. After a several days, we took pictures while the parents were out shopping for groceries.
I went back to the house to shlep another load of laundry out. Back at the clothesline I checked the nest, found it tilted down again...and empty! If the babies tumbled out of the nest, they probably wouldn't survive the fall. I searched the ground around the post but couldn’t find them. Then I peered into the clematis jungle and saw one of them perched on a wire in the cot spring, about halfway down the post. I ran back to the house to get Bill. I’m not very knowledgeable about birds and he would know the best way to rescue it. He put on a glove, repositioned the nest, gently picked up the bird and returned it, cheeping shrilly, to the nest. The parents were frantically darting from tree to tree, squawking their distress with the handling of their baby. We never found the second baby.
No sooner had Bill placed the baby in its nest than it clumsily fluttered to the ground. Again, Bill picked it up and placed it back in the nest. This time it stayed put so we quickly left.
Bill thought the babies were too young for flight-training but, considering the instability of the nest, maybe the parents decided to start early.
A few minutes later, I looked out the window and saw a very small bird attempt a clumsy hop that barely got it off the ground, then flutter back down, flapping its tiny wings for all it was worth. After a few seconds of rest, it hopped airborne again to an altitude of a few inches, followed by another uncoordinated descent. Bill and I went back outside, thinking another rescue was necessary. Then we saw Daddy Cardinal in front of his flight-challenged offspring, flutter-hopping backwards and cheeping encouragement to “Keep trying; you’re almost there!” Now we understood: Because of the instability of their nest, the cardinals were moving their young—we hoped they’d already moved the one we couldn't find. We’re not sure where they set up housekeeping; but they headed toward a small tree with low branches and dense ground cover around it.
Several days have passed. Occasionally we still see the adult cardinals. We assume the flight-training has resumed and the parents will soon launch their young out into the world.