Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pool Bird

Last weekend, our pool got warm enough to swim in, for the first time this year. Actually, it was just a bit cold at 67 degrees F, but after few hours of heating it was reasonable. As we were going through a short heat wave (in the 100s for a few days), it was the perfect time to go swimming, and get a not so healthy sunburn on our necks and backs! (oh yeah, sunscreen....)

Our pool, which was installed last year, is a new experience for us in many ways. Of course, there's the swimming, the diving, the breath holding contests, etc. This spring, however, we're discovering that it is also an attraction to the local wildlife.

A month or so ago, one of my daughter's found a ladybug nest on the side of one of the faux rocks. We got to see ladybugs in all stages of development, from cocoons, to yellow backed bugs, to red bugs, to red bugs with black spots. Very fun to watch!

However, we had no idea what was in store for us last weekend, as we all donned swimming gear, and took our first plunges into the water. Initially, it was just swimming pool mayhem, as we tried out all the things we learned last year, and discovered that there are some muscles that have been in disuse for far too long. I decided to turn on the waterfall, and sit under the grotto for awhile. I wasn't there for 30 seconds, before I turned around and saw what appeared to be a large paper wasp nest. The red arrow shows where I found it on our pool:

I immediately got the kids out of the pool, and asked my wife (who was not swimming at the time), to go fetch a bucket, a trowel, and some wasp poison. Looking closer at the nest, I realized that it wasn't a wasp nest at all, but a birds nest. Indeed, there didn't seem to be any wasps around, and the top appeared to be the only opening:

It appears that the architect of this nest used some of the blue fibers from an old trampoline cover we had last year (pre-pool), along with an assortment of twigs, and whatever the heck that stuff is that glues the nest to the rock.

It occurred to me that if this nest was in use, there was probably a very worried bird around somewhere, so I started scanning the yard. Sure enough, there was a single bird that was flying from the fence, to the rocks, to the other fence, and back again:

(yeah, I know - crappy video). My first thought on seeing the bird was, "What the heck kind of bird is that?" We went into the house, and dug out our copy of A Guide to Field Identification of BIRDS of North America, and started flipping through the pages. We realized fairly quickly that we had no clue where to start in the book, and needed a picture of this bird to help us make the identification:

We still weren't having much luck identifying the bird using the book, so that's when I decided to hit the internet. I immediately came across a website called, which allows you to search for a bird by entering characteristics.

Each time you enter a new characteristic (bill length, bird size, wing shape, etc), the list of bird possibilities shortens. Once I got this list down to about 10 different birds, I had to step through each one until I found a picture and description that fit our mama bird. Apparently, this bird is called a Black Phoebe. The description even reads "Preferred habitats include shady areas near water, streams, ponds, and lakes..." which certainly fits our bird!

Since last weekend, we've managed to put a mirror up to the nest (without touching the nest, of course), and verify that there are three little eggs in there. Yesterday (Saturday), I'm fairly certain that I heard OTHER bird voices coming from the nest, and mama bird has been EXTREMELY busy tending the nest. I wonder how long until the baby birds come out? I hope they don't fall in the pool!

At least it wasn't a Coin Bird!!

Update 4/28/2009: Found this while trying to figure out how long until the birds are hatched. Looks like it might only be a week or two before the babies take flight, and then the birds may lay another set of eggs! Cool!