Low: 31° FGrowing up, I went through a lot of phases: like the period when I refused to take a bath unless I was wearing a stocking cap shaped like one an elf might wear, or the one when I insisted on hanging a spoon from my nose at the dinner table. But one of the most beguiling of these phases was when, as a third or fourth grader, I insisted that my entire family call me Phoebe. And far be it from me to stop there. Oh, no. We would all be called Phoebe. And it would be Phoebe Phoebe, should anyone require a surname, thank you very much.
High: 52° F
Conditions: calm with unlimited sunshine
As far as I know, the caninaturalist has never gone through a developmental stage as strange as this. There was the time when she insisted that she became an uncatchable, wild coyote whenever she bolted from the house. But as best as I can tell, she retained her given name even when gallivanting about the forest surrounding our house.
I was somewhat surprised, then, when she showed the same nostalgic interest as I did in one of our most cherished temperate-weather visitors: Sayornis phoebe, also know as the Eastern Phoebe.
I have lots of reasons to love this bird. In addition to my pre-pubescent alter-ego moniker, our phoebes also share a lot of homemaking memories. A mating pair arrived at our little log cabin the same summer Greg and I did. As we were negotiating where to put the ice cream bowls and book shelves, the two phoebes were building a nest on a beam tucked just below the roof near our front porch.
Since that first season, they’ve returned each year around this time. They spend a few weeks sprucing up the old nest and reclaiming hunting perches, then they get down to the business of egg laying and chick rearing. We humans are so enchanted with their little domestic life that we don’t even mind the white streaks that quickly dot our vehicles, or the fact that we have to use the basement door to enter our house after the kids are born.
Mouse and Leila Tov—our two rescue cats—have their own reasons for loving the return of the phoebes. The birds regularly spend inclement days hunkering down on our front porch, where only a single pane of glass separates them from the watchful eyes of feline predators. As I write this post, both cats are stealthily becoming reacquainted with Mamma Phoebe, who is renovating her house under their watchful (and hungry?) eye.
It makes good sense to me that these cats would be captivated. But why does Ari so love these birds? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. She barely gives chickadees and goldfinches a second glance. She only likes robins when she can chase them. But phoebes command her respect and attention. Maybe it’s because they have the same tell-tale tail wag as the caninaturalist. Or because they line their nests with some of her favorite things, like moss and husky hair. Or because they catch those same insects that plague her and truncate our walks when I’ve forgotten my bug dope.
I’ll never really know for sure. But I am certain of one thing: we are very happy to see that they have returned.