A couple of years ago, a pair of Phoebes built a nest in our back porch. At the time, this was just a roofed passage between the house and the garage, so we had no worries about mud on the flagstones, and plenty of opportunity to watch the proceedings.
It all started with much to-ing and fro-ing and dropping of bits of mud. Overnight a cup-like structure appeared against the wall, and then there was silence. By standing on our tiptoes we could see a pair of pin-prick eyes looking out: somebody was sitting on eggs.
Our comings and goings didn't seem to disturb the Phoebes as summer went on. Eventually, jack-in-the-box-like maws popped up out of the nest whenever we went by. And the parents were always near, perching on the clothesline, wagging their tails and squeaking “phoe-be, phoe-be!”
The babies grew bigger and soon there were five fully feathered, bright-eyed Phoeblets sticking out of the nest. And then they were gone.
The next year, they came back. By then we had enclosed the back porch, so they tried to nest in the front porch. They made such a mess of mud and droppings, however, that we strung up a length of fishing line just inside the eave to discourage them, and it worked. I felt a little mean, but I enjoyed the clean porch.
This spring, they returned. Who knew where they had been, and what trouble they had gone to to find us? Since they weren't trying to nest directly in the way of the front door, we decided to let them stay.
They built their usual neat nest, and then seemed to disappear. I thought that maybe our attempt to inhibit them last year had succeeded again. But in the last couple of days I've seen a bird on the nest. Something is clearly going on, and I am rejoicing.
It's not just the bird on the nest that encourages me. At all times of day, in the trees and bushes in front of the porch I can spot a Phoebe, husband or wife, with its slightly disheveled looks and wagging tail, waiting for me to get out of the way so it can get on with its parental responsibilities.
There are white droppings on the porch slate floor. Whenever we go in or out, a pair of shiny eyes marks our every move. I love it that the little family likes us so much, and that we have shelter, and plenty of bugs, for it to prosper on.