Posted tagged ‘phoebe nest’

more social distancing in an Ozark forest

April 1, 2020

Last fall I had pressure washed the cabin and then put fresh stain on it. I was pleased with the result, but I knew it meant I had to remove the phoebe nest that had been on the outside wall under the porch roof for years. My hope was that phoebe would return and rebuild her nest, and on Saturday’s visit I saw that she was doing just that.

This is only the beginning of her new nest, but it’s in the same spot as the one she had before. As we sat in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake, phoebe darted in the trees before us, chastising us for being in what she must have considered her private space. With the rain of the night before, I imagine there was a great deal of mud currently available to her, and I guess she wanted to get busy with building the rest of the nest.

Along with sitting in the comfy chair and adding a layer of blocks to the fire ring, I had also marched down to the dam with the pitchfork to clean the debris off the overflow drain. This is the primary solution to the full lake. There is a basin set in the side of the dam with a screen atop it, and when the water gets to the rim of this basin (set a foot or so lower than the spillway level) the water drains into it and then comes out a large pipe out in the pecan plantation. The pipe is a foot in diameter, and the lake’s watershed is 100+ acres, so in a big storm, the lake can fill faster than this pipe can drain it away. That’s when the spillways work their magic. But the rest of the time, this overflow drain does a decent job of bleeding off the excess. However, it also collects the sticks and leaves that wash into the lake and then are sucked onto the screen. When this happens, the draining capacity is severely diminished. Thus my work with the pitchfork.

It’s not easy. Not only is this drain on the slope of the dam, and so I must find a way to place my feet as I wield the pitchfork, but the debris sits on top of a screen, meaning I have to angle the pitchfork so that its tines don’t go into the screen, thus making it impossible to lift off the debris. And then I must throw the debris I’ve forked over the dam (rather than back into the lake for it to accumulate again). And I must do this will standing above the drain and reaching down and out, while trying not to fall into the lake. They don’t tell you these things when you’re having your dam dreams.

Here is a photo (from years ago) of the drain showing the screen:

And here is a photo (also from long ago) of the drain needing a little housekeeping:

trip to the cabin

June 5, 2017

I had said in my last post that the chest cold I’d developed (which I still have a tiny bit) prevented me from going to my cabin two weekends ago, but I wrote that before the long weekend had transpired, and it turned out to be a misstatement. My wife and I (and the dogs) did make it out there Sunday for an overnight into Memorial Day Monday. (And I don’t feel bad that I did not go to Kentucky to see my ailing mother as I had originally planned since I didn’t need to give her my cold, so the cabin trip was an acceptable fallback.)

We didn’t do a whole lot while there. I never fired up the chainsaw, for example, though there are some smallish trees around the cabin I’d like to remove. We only went for one short hike, and we penned the dogs inside the cabin while we did since the ticks seem to be bad this year. I didn’t add to the retaining wall I’m slowing extending from the cabin to the road.

But that doesn’t mean that the permanent residents in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks weren’t busy. A phoebe has built her nest on the side of the cabin under the porch roof again this year. She had taken literally what the sign below says.

My son and daughter-in-law (the doctors) had given me that sign several years ago, and I duly hung it beside the door to the cabin. I thought the bear on the right looked a little odd — what is it doing in that pose? — so if you look closely you can see the football I put in its hands because that makes so much more sense. Anyway, on an earlier trip to the cabin I had noticed that the phoebe was adding mud pellets to several places on the front of the cabin, and I figured on a later visit I would learn which one she’d settled on for her nest. You can she where she did.

The female phoebe builds her nest alone; imagine how much work that must be without hands. She must collect enuf mud pellets to make the clinging base, and then she must get the softer nesting material to add to the top to complete it. (Which made my slacking visit more clear to me.) I had worried that the phoebe would not return this year because I hadn’t seen her nest work earlier in the spring as I usually did, but then I recalled what a drought we’d had, so perhaps mud was hard to come by.

Anyway, she finished her nest and promptly filled it:

One summer several years ago the phoebe — I don’t know that it’s the same one actually — raised three clutches, but she’s getting a late start this year. Still, it’s heartening to see this.

Unfortunately, we come and go a lot on the porch, and we have two comfy chairs there that we sit in to gaze down at the lake (still full!) for countless hours. And this is problematic for the phoebe since she is not habituated to humans and so will not remain on her nest when we are on the porch. Instead she will fly to a nearby tree branch and scold us. Given the temperature the thermometer on the porch was reporting that day, I don’t think her absence from her eggs was a problem for their development, but I tried to keep myself busy away from the porch as much as possible so she could return to her nest.

On my next trip to the cabin it may be that I’ll find chirping hatchlings in the nest.

As to the top photo, that fallen tree rests not too far from the cabin. You can see that it’s slowly yielding all of the solar energy it collected over decades to the earth. This is the log I put peanuts (unsalted, of course) on for the wood rat who lives within it as well as for the birds who come and take a whole one to a nearby branch to peck it open and get the good stuff inside. You can see some peanuts in the lower right of the photo.

Feeding wild animals is, technically, not a good thing since they can get dependent on their human source, but given my sporadic visits and thus sporadic feedings, I consider them to be a supplement rather than a meal replacement, so to speak.