In my normal spring ritual, I have just now come in from my gardens, having pruned back my roses, japonicas and clematis.
And now on the rail of my deck I see another sign of spring--a pair of phoebes. The phoebe's a sociable bird, the first to be tagged by humans for study. It's plumage is gray; it wags its tail; it sings a fine song; and it's more than comfortable around humans. And as I later was told they mate for life.
This is the second pair of phoebes to nest here since we moved into their neighborhood 17 years ago. I made friends with the first pair the day I moved in. Whenever I sat on my deck, the phoebes would fly to the rail and spend some time near my chair, singing their sprightly song.
They returned here from their winter hiatus each year, setting up housekeeping in the same nest in the rafters of my lower deck, and I'd enjoy their company all summer, every summer.
About five years ago in the fall, about the time they'd be leaving for the south, Mama Phoebe--apparently deceived by the reflection of sky and trees in the glass--flew hard against my window and fell dead to the floor of my deck. Papa flew to the rail and watched her for hours, sitting motionless, as if he were waiting for her to awake. He returned again each morning, perching very still on the rail, watching her body.
One evening later in the week, I found him dead in my gardens below; he had apparently fallen from his sentinel spot on the deckrail.
I buried them together in a quiet corner of the garden, and through ensuing years I didn't see another phoebe on my property until today.
The arrival of this new phoebe family is a happy event for R.A.T., your Rose About Town. I hope they will accept our company and stay around. I promise to keep my windows dirty enough so they can tell they are windows.