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Favorite Phoebe Nest

A little phoebe nest is tucked beneath the rafters in my backyard woodshed like a miniature wreath. It’s a curious little relic to behold during those long, cold snowy weeks of hauling winter cordwood. By May, it once more cradles eggs and tiny nestlings.

The elegant little nest cup is woven of green moss, lined with pine needles and dried grass and cemented with warm mud. During winter, that Phoebe’s nest carries the promise of time travel to these fleeting mornings of early May when warm sunshine drenches the Lane River Valley - already now awash in spring bird songs.

Phoebe doesn’t sing. Yet the drab-colored flycatchers are among my favorite birds. They heed a pulse of strengthening sunlight and lure of plentiful insect protein to hazard an epic journey - a migration of hundreds of miles - to return to a humble cordwood shed where they renovate or rebuild over last year's nest.

Credit Dave Anderson
3 Years worth of Phoebe nests stacked one on top of the other.

I admire the nest-makers who annually return from mountainous forests of the southern U.S., Mexico and Central America. The GPS coordinates which guide their long, arduous journeys are somehow lodged in their tiny avian on-board navigation systems.

Credit Keg River via flickr Creative Commons

Phoebe perches on a prominent sugar maple twig and wags its tail downward with an emphatic "phee-beet" call. He cocks his head and then hawks a plump winged insect from mid-air.

He regards me with utter indifference. I watch slack-jawed while contemplating the miracle of his endurance, faith and fidelity to this specific nest-place and time.

Naturalist Dave Anderson is Senior Director of Education for The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, where he has worked for over 30 years. He is responsible for the design and delivery of conservation-related outreach education programs including field trips, tours and presentations to Forest Society members, conservation partners, and the general public.

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