Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welcome home, my Phoebe friends

Spring has sprung, and I am delighted to announce that our resident pair of Eastern Phoebes has returned to nest on the side of our house!

They are about a week behind schedule as compared to last year. I wasn't even sure they were going to nest in the same spot again. There was actually a curious Carolina Wren checking out and reshaping the old nest for a few days.

Not to worry, though. Once the Phoebes made up their mind that they would settle in this spot, they immediately set to work reshaping it into a bowl fit for the finest Phoebe fledglings. (Say that 3 times fast!) It has been interesting to watch over the past few days how it has really taken shape. Lots of moss has been added around the outside, and it seems more firmly anchored to the side of the house. It's a big nest, though, to be sure. I think this is the third year this nest has been recycled.

This is the first year we have been able to observe them via video from day one. A bonus from this early observation: the male and female spent time together at the nest during the first few days. Time spent together lasts very briefly, as evidenced by the fact that we first started watching them on Friday, and by Tuesday the female was the only one captured on video at the nest 90% of the time. Based on which bird is doing what, we think the bird that raises and lowers the feathers on his head is the male (we call him Don King) and the one who doesn't raise head feathers is the female. We came to this conclusion because Don King mostly stands around while the female does most of the work (not using human sexist views here - the female is responsible for nest building and for incubating the eggs, as noted on BirdHouses101.com).

I would think that all this back and forth, back and forth, must be exhausting on the female. In this video I feel kind of bad for her: she comes in carrying a rather large bug in her beak and starts in on a little bowl shaping, at which point she drops the bug and continues with renovations. To me it looks like the bug gets caught on the side of the nest, so I don't know if maybe she was able to pick it up later or if she truly just forgot about it.

I would expect egg laying to begin in a few days, so incubation will probably start in the next week or so. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

P.S. I submitted a bird-themed poem to a competition over at Daily Writing Tips (opens in separate tab/window) - it's titled "Lucky". Go over and check it out if you have a chance. If you like it, please let your voice be heard by voting for it. Or vote for any of the other 9 poems - they are all great. Thank you!


Shelley said...

I love seeing the phoebes at work! How fun to watch them! Do you feel like you're their birdy mama now too? :-)
I am going to check out your poem now. You are a multi-talented woman Heather!

Kelly said...

Yeah! I'm glad your Phoebes are nesting again. It will be fun to watch their progress. It must be wonderful to see them every year. I'll have to go check out your poem!

ksdoolittle said...

This is so very exciting!! And good luck with your poem contest. I voted for the best one there - yours~ ~karen

Vickie said...

Heather, what fun to see the Phoebes together and the nest shaping. I am enjoying seeing and hearing our Phoebes. I captured a photo of two together on a limb yesterday, one with an open mouth. Last year's offspring? or nuptial behavior? After seeing your videos, I'll be looking around the house to see if I can locate this year's nest.

Heather said...

Shelley - Yes, I do feel like their birdy mama. I love seeing the real mama come into the nest every morning, though - she's soooo cute!

Kelly - Yes, I feel very lucky that they have decided to nest here every year. Every spring I cross my fingers and hold my breath, and then they come and it's just wonderful.

Karen - You haven't seen exciting until little heads start popping out of that nest! And thanks for your vote - it means a lot.

Vickie - I'll be right over to see your Phoebe photo. Probably a courting ritual you observed there. Phoebes are just one of the coolest birds.

The Early Birder said...

Hi Heather. How exciting to see the Phoebes returning to start the sequence all over again. Will watch the progress with interest. FAB.
BTW..Loved the poem but was too late to vote!

Monika said...

I look forward to following along with the phoebes nesting again this year! I still can't get over how cool it is you've got the video set up.

David said...

Setting up this camera was not as tricky or expensive as it might seem. The camera is a Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 which I stuck in a fairly weather tight box.

Unless your subject is within 16 ft. of your computer you'll need a USB extension of some sort. There are inexpensive repeaters that you can daisy chain up to something like 98 ft. but I think the best solution is a CAT5 extender that will let you run the connection over CAT5 ethernet cable up to 160 ft.

The Logitech software includes a motion sensing feature that will automatically record when there's activity.

Heather said...

Frank - I'm delighted to share the process with everyone, so we can all experience the excitement together! Sorry you were too late to vote on the poem, but thanks for thinking of me! The voting window is pretty tight so they can keep cranking new contestants out and keep the spam to a minimum.

Monika - I knew you would be psyched to see this. Luckily Dave had chimed in to give some details about how the camera works. It wouldn't be there if it weren't for him!

Dave - Thank you, my dear, for helping make this capturing and sharing a reality!

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

Love your poem, Heather!

Heather said...

Warren and Lisa - Thank you so much for taking the time to read it - that means a lot.

RuthieJ said...

Aw Heather, that's really neat that you've got those little phoebes nesting right there! Thanks for sharing all the videos and stories.

Heather said...

Ruthie - I'm glad you enjoyed the videos and stories. Stay tuned for more developments in the coming weeks!