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Phoebe Mishap

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

Every summer for the last three years, the phoebes have raised two batches of babies in their nest inside the eaves of our front porch.  They make a mess on the porch floor, but that is a small price to pay for their close familiarity and conscientious bug eating.  Between the phoebes and the frogs, I have yet to see a single mosquito around the house this summer.

But yesterday afternoon I saw that the nest had fallen to the floor.  It was actually two nests, one built on top of the other, and there was a dead nestling trapped beneath them.  Right up against the wall of the house was its sibling, alive and cheeping weakly.  It was smaller than a soup spoon, all beak and new feathers.  I turned and walked away from the disaster scene.

It was the best I could do.  Even if I\’d known what kind of bugs it liked, and in what quantities, there\’s no way I could have caught them.  It probably needed water, too, but how much, and how to give it without drowning it?  My only hope was that the parents were aware of their surviving child, and would take care of it.  I left the nest debris and the dead baby right where they had fallen, so as not to alarm the parents.  It occurred to me that the flies gathering on the little cadaver might provide some easy meals for the parents to catch.

A couple of hours later I checked again and the nestling was still alive, and cheeping louder.  I wondered how it would survive the night, away from its sibling\’s warmth.  I wondered whether the critters that hunt in the dark would find it, and was glad that at least we had nothing to fear from the porcupine. 

Today, he or she is still there, glued to the same spot, cheeping.  There is some poop right near him, which I\’m interpreting as a sign that he\’s being fed.  The last time I checked he was quiet, and I had to get really close to see the tiny vibrations of his feathers.  I guess even baby birds have to take breaks from eating.

The parent phoebes are flying back and forth from the bird feeder which they use as a perch (they don\’t eat seeds) to the plum tree in front of the porch.  I\’m sure they know their child is there.  Now I\’m worried about the temperatures in the mid-90s that are forecast for this afternoon–but the porch faces north, so he will at least be sheltered from the sun.  I\’ve put a small dish of water nearby.  It\’s the best I can do.

4 Responses

  1. Just curious. The other day you posted a photo of your house with the hay bales in front. The photo shows a five bay brick house. Why did you choose to paint four bays in your cover picture of the blog?

  2. Laurie, that very afternoon, he disappeared from the porch. I heard him cheeping nearby but didn't go looking, again because the parents were around and I didn't want to alarm them. My theory is that they got him off the porch and under one of the giant hosta leaves, where it was cooler. Haven't seen or heard him since, but I'm not too worried, since we don't have cats.

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