I've seen baby birds all of my life but have seldom seen the miracle of them actually leaving the nest. The only other time I can recall was when on a Big Day my friends and I serendipitously pulled up to a pond just as tiny fluff balls of Wood Ducks jumped from the box. That changed this summer when on June 13th I went to my deck to light the grill and spooked the entire family of five baby Eastern Phoebes from their nest. They all took off at once up and over the roof and I hope managed to survive. I was going to use a different tact with the second brood.
Just when I thought I had regained use of my deck for the summer, a new clutch of eggs was laid and the routine started all over again. SOP became flush mom from nest to light the grill; flush mom again to put food on grill; flush mom again to turn food; flush for the fourth time to remove food and turn off gas; and then one final flush to close and cover everything. This became a way of life nearly every evening through hatching and early development. For the past several days as the kids grew larger I have forgone using the deck at all in hopes of not replicating the earlier experience. Yesterday the largest chick took one quick flight to the grill and just as quickly returned to the nest. All were still in place this morning but I had the feeling this might just be the day for the real adventure for at least that kid so I made frequent visits to the back door to check.
The nest was really getting crowded with baby phoebes exploding over the edges. My photos of this neat event aren't the greatest since they were taken through glass and screen, but they do document a really cool experience!
Today's The Day
I made one of my checks on the nest and it looked a bit less crowded. Was that blur I saw go by the window just now a parent or a baby? Sure enough, the first brave soul had made it to the deck railing and was sitting there bobbing its short little tail like all good phoebes do as well as preening the flight feathers a bit.
First Brave Soul
While Baby #1 began trying to make sense of this new adventure, one parent paid particular close attention, standing guard and bringing an occasional tasty morsel. A House Wren appeared on the deck floor and the parent immediately chased it away.
Lunch on the Ledge
As I watched this spectacle and blur went by the window. Baby #2 had just tried the same trick but missed the railing. It landed in the weeds below the window and I hoped it would be OK. In a couple of minutes there was a flurry of small wings as it made its way to some brush a few feet further back in the jungle. It was immediately attended to by a parent and soon joined by Baby #1.
To The Jungle
So now, would the other two kids make the break today as well? I looked out the door and they almost looked perplexed at having so much room.
Where Did They Go?
At last Baby #3 got the courage to at least take the first step.
Scary Out Here
It exercised its wings a bit and when I went to the window to check on the others made the great escape. It was soon followed by the last kid. In 17 short minutes they had all flown the coop.
Last One Out
The parents are super busy right now trying to keep up with four kids and their new-found freedom. It's almost mind-boggling to think that in the last seven weeks nine baby phoebes have left my porch light. Tonight I think I'll grill out, but after all my complaining it will probably be a little bittersweet to look up at that empty nest. Be well my little phoebe friends!
The Deck Is Mine Again!