The phoebes came back at the end of March, which I always think is crazy considering they are flycatchers. Not a lot of flies buzzing about at the end of March. Unless you look closely. Up against the house, especially where the sun bakes, flies emerge, moths flutter and a phoebe, you find, probably can make a living.
Phoebes are not shy. The morning after a good southerly flow they announce their presense emphatically: fee-bee! Little gray birds who flick their tails (which helps distinguish them from other flycatchers), they build mud and moss nests lined with grass where they lay four to six white eggs.
Our phoebes were a little late this year, but back they came, just as they did for John James Audubon, who helped prove that birds migrate. He tied a silver thread to a phoebe’s leg (one of the few subjects he didn’t shoot. Did he paint the phoebes?) and the following spring a bird with a silver thread returned to the same spot.
Our phoebes tried first one spot under the shed rafters, then another, and another, before finally settling on their old nest on top of mudroom door light. Not convenient for us–we don’t dare to turn on the light–but also not inconvenient if one wants to spy on the little birds. I drag out a stool and hold a mirror over the nest to monitor their progress.
The female is starting to sit on her eggs now, which will take about two weeks. After another two weeks the babies will fledge. I think we can give up some use of our door for a month. I’m all in favor of fewer bugs in the yard.