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My, How They've Grown!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Luther, looking contemplative on his last day at the old nest, June 16. Check out his picture from June 19 later on in this post.
There's a little lag time in the phoebe blog. It hasn't been easy to keep them fed, take care of my family, house, and grounds, paint some bird pictures that are due, write a piece here and there, and keep the blog up-to-date. I'm prepping the gardens for two garden clubs' visit on June 20, and it's hot as Hades. There goes an hour and a half of each day, just in watering. Rain in the summer is so nice, but it doesn't happen in southern Ohio, generally. What we get sometimes is lovely, cool, rainy springs, and then virtually always these crispy hot summers. All the tender fuchsias and impatiens and ferns I thought I wanted in May become anchors around my neck in late June, their existence utterly dependent on my hoses. Hanging baskets, no matter how well-watered yesterday, are crisp again today.

After refusing to gape for five straight days, Luther and Avis woke up this morning hungry. Well, glory be. I don't have to force-feed them every hour. If that sounds like a drag, well, it is, for everyone concerned. But I was not going to lose these phoebes, so I did what I had to to keep their eyes bright and their outlook good. I knew this anorexia couldn't be normal, and was probably linked to dehydration, but I couldn't seem to get enough water into them to combat it. I'd had the same problem with seven chimney swifts I'd raised two years ago. Both chimney swifts and phoebes take flying insects. Coincidence? I doubt it. There's probably a lot higher moisture content in flying insects than in mealworms and crickets. After trying to get to it for two days and being too busy, on June 16 I mixed up a sloppy formula consisting of soaked kitten chow and the same spirulina-based protein powder I mix for my daytime meals, and started feeding it to them with a syringe. That was the only way I could think of to get them both nutrition and moisture at the same time. And the morning of June 17 they were gaping. What a beautiful sight, those tangerine-orange mouth linings, what a lovely sound, the shrill of hunger. I poke a cricket or a syringe in there, and am done.
They watch flies and moths intently. Here, Avis is watching a moth. Every moth I find, I put in the tent. One day I'll see a phoebe with a moth in its bill, and my servitude will end. Already Avis snatches them from the forceps, processes them, and gulps them down. She even launched herself at one today! On June 18, a new call: an insect-like tri-didd-ddit. I'd swear it was a field cricket if I didn't see it coming out of their bills.

They're growing like weeds, bobbing their tails, flying around their tent, getting all uppity. Here's Luther, June 19--how he's grown! And Avis is looking like an adult today:Sorry about the schmutz on the camera lens in these last few shots. It's probably milk from when I had the camera on the kitchen counter this morning... They hate the lawnmower, the weedwhacker, and the tractor, as they should. They watch Chet Baker intently, as he watches them. They gape and beg whenever one of us walks by, and now they know the sight of the syringe I use to feed them means that a meal is on the way. They sleep smashed together like one little birdlump. How we love them. And now that they're begging for food, my life is much easier. I can pop a cricket or a squirt of formula in their mouths and get on with this life of dawn-to-midnight toil, joy, worry, and care. 'The only time I sit down, ever, is to blog and check my email. No wonder I like blogging.


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