Just room for one

One of my many birdie joys is welcoming the returnees back in the spring.

I presume most (at least) are as happy to be welcomed back for I know they hurry to settle down, build a nest and get on with rearing a new family. Do you suppose they give any thought to the earlier nestees? If birds can remember the where, why not the why and the kids?

Figuring it was the place that indeed did matter, last fall I had all the old nests removed.

My experiences with the day-to-day activity as a nearby nest of blue jays hatched and matured to flying was a wonder. I didn’t expect it to be repeated (hadn’t anybody told this pair they are supposed to nest in the woods?) and, honestly, devoting that many hours to observing wasn’t something I needed to repeat.

The robin on the front porch has no compunction. She doesn’t mind an old nest, will readily refurbish – and then scold me all summer long because I’m too close to her home. I’ve never been able to convince her I live here as well.

I was, however, afraid I’d upset the routine of the phoebes. They constructed an amazing triplex (3 nests ultimately interwoven) which I presume indicated three years’ effort. Gone . . . now.

But oh! I hear their songs and calls but see no nest building. Had they gone and deserted me? I kept the nests in the garage though the winter took its toll but no . . . a commiseration perhaps but no way was I climbing a ladder to replace old nests. Sorry, I just can’t.

I watched them return to their spot, examine it closely but then they always moved on – to my consternation.

What joy then on June first to note they had finally decided to build a nest – and stick with it. Predictably it wasn’t too terribly long till a lone bird settled in.

I kept an eye on things – more-or-less. Nothing exciting to report, just what I imagined was one happy little phoebe.

It wasn’t until I was watching golf one drizzly Sunday afternoon that I caught strange movement off to my left. What? Just flashes of light, coming and then disappearing. Now I’d liken it to a yo-yo which is a pretty fair description.

It continues week after week. I wrote this on June eighteenth. There are babes in the nest. Tiny ones. I saw only the tip of a yellow beak once when I had the camera out. (Face it, 90% of the time she’s either sitting there or the nest appears empty.)

Dad (I’m guessing) continues his efforts but simply cannot make a perch near her – or beside where there should be room. One time I thought he took over the sitting when she flew off and perhaps he did. Keep the home fires burning as it were while she took a break, probably foraging for food for herself if not for any young ones.

Who else but Donald and Lillian Stokes and Volume 2 of their “Guide to Bird Behavior.” (Why have I never bought the third?)

First thing I learned is that they may raise a second brood in “early summer” which, considering this year, may be the first – or did they try someplace else earlier and then decide to pack up and return to “home”? If there is to be a second try, the female may need to remodel the nest. (I understand.) In this case, did she decide to move? Time will tell.

The Stokes go on to say that only the female incubates her eggs though the male tends to perch nearby for at least part of the time when she does fly off the nest. But, once hatched, it is the male who zooms in to feed the kids while the “female tends to be more wary when approaching the nest, usually landing near the nest first and then going to it.”

There are no convenient perches nearby which might explain why I see only one at a time.

Still, it’s not an activity I’ve observed before.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.


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