Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bluebirds Vs. Phoebes, Continued

A couple of weeks ago I wrote (http://mygreenvermont.blogspot.com/2013/06/bluebirds-vs-phoebes.html) about the battles between the phoebes and the bluebirds who were trying to raise families in close proximity to each other and within spitting distance (well, upward spitting distance) of our sun porch.

I told how the male bluebird would bang his feet and wings repeatedly on our window, scarcely a foot away from where the phoebes' nest perched on the downspout.  And whenever the phoebes tried to get to their nest, the bluebird would fly at them and scare them away.  With such persistent harassment, plus endless days of torrential rain, I didn't hold much hope for the phoebes.

Their nest was too high for us to look inside, but my husband rigged up an old side view mirror on a pole and we saw to our alarm that there were eggs in there.  As the guerrilla warfare and the rain continued, I thought surely the embryos had died.  I couldn't understand why the phoebes didn't cut their losses and find other ways to give meaning to their life.

Then, eating my lunch on the patio during a five-minute sunny spell the other day, I watched the phoebes catching bug after bug in mid-air, flying to the nest, and flying out again.

That had to mean that they were feeding somebody.

And sure enough, there he or she was, an adorable, gray-feathered, yellow-beaked baby, Nature's reward to the phoebes for their courage and perseverance.  Right now as I write the rain has let up, and the phoebes are in dinnertime mode, bringing bugs to their child every few seconds.  Do nestlings, I wonder, ever get indigestion?

Inspection of the bluebird nest box is a simpler matter, requiring only that I drag a patio chair over to the flower bed and, taking care not to crush the echinacea, stand on it and peer in the hole.  The last time I looked the nest contained five eggs, each the same intense blue as their father's wings.  What chemistry allows these birds to secrete that color as if they were cartridges filled with some divine ink?

I know that if I were commuting daily to a job and coming home at night to my own nestlings the politics of bird families would have less claim on my attention.  But now that my own nest is empty I find myself living vicariously, a least a little, through the birds, participating in Nature's great drama which, for all I can see, is every bit as compelling for bluebirds and phoebes as it once was for me.

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