Tuesday, February 21, 2012


My friend, Susan Branch, just launched her latest Willard (Willard is the name of her newsletter for those who are not familiar with Susan) today and it is all about SPRING! Not the water trickling over the stones, nor the squeaky one in the bed....the real SPRING...the season that comes after Winter and before Summer. Lovely, sunny, to-die-for breezes in the air and wispy clouds sailing overhead. SPRING! A-hem? Uh, wait a moment....where did old man Winter go? We haven't had Winter yet!! How could SPRING here???
This is our rouge Hollyhock plant. Actually, there are at least 2 in there! Charlie seems to remember me flinging a handful of misc. seeds into the garden last spring, hoping for some surprises. I was surprised, alright. Several seeds made an appearance only to croak a few days later. After a bit of research, I have learned that it is best to sow the seeds for Hollyhocks at the end of summer/early fall if you want blooms on your stalks come SPRING!

And, it seems that the neighborhood birds are back from their winter break....the finch feeder in the back garden has been loaded with birds all week.

Maybe I'm ready for SPRING! I have been wanting to get out and clean up the gardens; move some roses...and I just read on the seed packets that most of the veggies I want to grow need to go in the ground in March! So, I guess I best get cracking!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

the Black Phoebes

Early in June in 2003, while watering the roses in the front garden, I noticed some movement by the water faucet. I looked down and there was a baby bird hidden in the overgrown grass. Then, I caught more movement to my right, and sure enough, there was another baby bird! Worried about the many cats in the 'hood, I scooped up the one that was headed toward the driveway. In the Sycamore tree over head were two full-grown birds watching me and making enough noise to let me know that they were the parents. Charlie came home and he noticed the remains of a mud nest high in the eaves by Whitney's bedroom window. Obviously, this is where these little guys started! What a fall, I mused.

We put a small terra cotta pot on its side next to the faucet. I put some lint from the dryer inside to make it cozy and then we rounded up the baby birds for the night. We looked up the parents in our bird book and decided that they were Black Phoebes.

Over the next few days, the baby birds became quite brave. The morning after we had found them, they had moved to a spot under the garden bench. Periodically, we would go out on the porch to check on them. They were always somewhere else! The following morning, I went out to fill the little fountain and accidentally kicked on to the log shells and out popped the baby birds! "Sorry, sorry, sorry!" I said. They had stayed in the hollow overnight.

The next afternoon I peeked out and couldn't see the birds. I walked very carefully across the yard (there was a lot of tall grass) to see if I could find them. Sure enough! Under the old wagon sat the pair, watching me!

It was mid-afternoon the next day when I came out to see if I could find them again...and I was having no luck. I went to the driveway and turned back towards the house, and there, on the lip of the porch, sat one of the babies...just scouting out the situation.

The other one was nowhere to be found. I went back inside and returned later to discover the bird had left the porch and relocated to the arm of the garden bench.

Still no sibling was seen.  Throughout the afternoon, I would return to the porch with my camera to check on the status of the babies. Every time I returned, they were in a different location. They were so cute! I ventured out into the yard and finally located baby #2 sitting on the log shell by the fountain. Back up on the porch, I watched them sit (kind of like watching paint dry). And then, suddenly...without warning, the baby on the garden bench took off for a short, awkward flight and landed in the little tree about ten feet away. Whew! He made it! It was so fun watching them make their progress. But, it was kind of sad, too, because I knew it wouldn't be long before they would be ready to move on.

A little while later, I came out and again looked for our two feathered friends. One was sitting on the north wall...while the parent birds sat on the branches of the tree nearby. Charlie came home from work shortly after and I told him about all of the antics. We both went back out on the porch and there, sitting on the north wall, were both birds, shoulder to shoulder. I quietly (and, quickly) went down the driveway, up to the next house, across the lawn and sat down. I gently lifted my camera and took one more picture of the two of them. You could still see some of the downy feather fluff thad hadn't been shed. What a pair.

By the time I returned from work the next day, it was obvious the babies had mastered their flying skills. The parents were nowhere to be seen or heard; a sure confirmation that the babies had successfully taken off for a destiny unknown. But, according to all of the bird books and online web sites, Black Phoebes are know to return to their nesting place. We will just have to wait and see.......

Since this story was written, we have had many Black Phoebes frequent our garden and the little fountain. We've had several nestings over the years and there are remnants of deserted mud nests high in the eaves above our kitchen. We look forward to their return each spring, announced by their distinct chirp.