Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Phoebe Nest Compendium

For those of you who can remember (through the recent avalanche of flower and plant posts here) and may have been watching for a follow-up to the story on the pair of Eastern Phoebes who built a nest above my den window, I'll sneak a synopsis in here. The last post (Nesting Continues) showed that after a lengthy courtship, the phoebes finally got down to business at least three weeks after the nest was complete, and were rewarded by June 14 with four white eggs.  Almost two weeks later, on June 27, there were four hatchlings as seen here.
Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) hatchlings
Last week, on Thursday (July 1), after watching from the den window as both parents worked very hard at gathering insects for the chicks, I made an attempt to photograph the parents doing a feeding. This is made difficult by the location of the nest immediately under the deck where there isn't much light. So I strung up a shop light with a 100w incandescent bulb, and although this allowed me to actually see a feeding, the results were not too clear photographically. You can see her pushing that insect way down the gullet of the chick. It was not clear from the photos that day how many chicks had survived.
Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) hatchlings
After almost a week of procrastinating and getting involved in other projects, I realized it was now or never, so today I finally did the right thing, setting up my studio strobe light under the deck and running the sync cable down the hill to the camera.  This provided much more light and gave much better results.  Unfortunately, I could only see and photograph three young ones waiting for their mom or dad to show up with something to eat.  Apparently one of the chicks had not survived. But wow, they are big and continually move around in the nest, standing up on the edge, switching positions, etc.
Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
I sat quite still, and finally the pair of adults returned and made several visits to the nest. I watched and took photos, but their repeated visits seemed to be very short (five to ten seconds) and did not seem to involve feeding.
Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Seen with their mom here, they sure look almost fully grown.  Perhaps she was trying to tell them something.  Although I'm sure she always looks like this when flying away from the nest, you want to imagine that she is trying to show them how to do it!
Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Anyway, I watched the adults make five visits to the nest, all apparently without food.  So I wrapped up the shoot, took the camera and tripod into the house and came back outside to take down the strobe and its tripod, which was on the patio about 8 feet from the nest.  There, under the tripod, was brother (or was it sister?) number four, apparently the adventurous one.  Or perhaps his brothers and sisters kicked him out?
Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) juvenile
He just sat there and looked at me while I collapsed the tripod.  When Joan came out a few minutes later to see him, we started to approach and the little guy took a couple hops away from the house and took to the air, in more or less a climbing flight, down the hill and about fifteen feet up into a tree.  Success!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Great pictures and a wonderful story with a happy ending.