July 07, 2014

All My Flycatchers, Season 10: The "Plop Plop" of Falling Birds

This year's brood of flycatchers, on top of the front porch light.
Is four fledglings too many?

Right now, there is a large pillow — actually an L. L. Bean dog bed — laid under the porch light on the veranda.

Baby Cordilleran flycatchers keep falling out of the nest on top of the porch light, which they built in late May while we were away in Taos, ignoring my purpose-built special flycatcher nesting ledge on the back of the house.

This is an ongoing drama every year: will Lucinda (all females are named Lucinda) successfully incubate her eggs and raise some babies? Some times things go very wrong.

Often four eggs are laid, but only three hatch. Or four chicks are hatched, but one is found dead and dessicated in the nest.

This year, we still have four starting to grow adult feathers. But the nest, built according to whatever evolutionary pattern — and better sized for three — is not big enough. They are starting to fall out.

I was working at my desk Sunday afternoon when I heard M. scream at Fisher, the Chesapeake Bay retriever. "Bad dog!" etc.

But here he is, the product of umpteen generations of bird-dog breeding, catching the breeze just inside the front door, when a bird falls from the sky in front of him. Of course he went for it.

The chick seemed OK, I thought, just a little damp from saliva. So I put it back in the nest. M. put a baby gate in the doorway and moved one of Fisher's outdoor dog beds under the nest.

Thirty minutes later I looked out and there was a chick lying on the dog bed. Back into the nest with it.

Then we ate supper on the veranda, as usual, noting Lucinda's constant trips to the nest to feed the kids with whatever insects she was catching. (Her mate helps too.)

I started to carry the plates inside and, Whoa! "Grab Fisher!" I said. Luckily, he was still sniffing under the dining table for crumbs.

There were two fledglings on the dog bed. Back into the nest they went.

How long is this going to keep up? Do we have to keep Fisher off the veranda, where he is accustomed to lounging during the day between walks and meals?

They can't grow up fast enough for me. Or for Lucinda.

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