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!


Don Snabulus said...

Your bird is much better than Coin Bird. Hopefully, you can all coexist so the Phoebe does not go on a killing spree destroying half the neighborhood like what happened to us.

(Except instead of phoebe, use dog and instead of killing, use pooping and instead of destroying, use messing up...but other than that, no difference.)

ladybug said...

Wow, that's really neat! Do you chlorinate your pool too? That might be something to think about if you want to make your backyard "wildlife" friendly...hope all the baby chicks do well too!

We have lots of birds getting worms on we don't weed 'n' feed but might check out some stuff that won't hurt the birds since we've got lots of dandelions...

DewKid said...


Stupid birds. I mean dogs.


Actually, our pool is a salt water pool, which means that it has a LOT less chlorine in it than a fresh-water pool. We never physically add chlorine: it is generated by an Electrolytic Cell from the salt in the water. The water is actually pretty harmless to drink, and vets recommend these pools for people with backyard pets! It also means no red-eye if you swim for extended periods, which is awesome.

ladybug said...

Wow, that's very interesting Dewkid! I didn't even know saltwater pools existed! I hear ya about the red eye thing, that sounds so much nicer!

DewKid said...

Saltwater pools are becoming the norm down here, and I imagine other places. My first reaction to having a salt water pool was "Yuk, I don't really like sea water..." Surprisingly, the amount of salt that is needed (3200 ppm) is 1/6th the amount of salt in saline (like your eyes), and something like 1/100th that of the ocean. You mostly can't even taste the salt in the water, so it's like swimming in a fresh water pool without all the chlorine.

DewKid said...

By the way, the Snabby family has an open invitation to come swimming with us, if ever you are in our neck of the woods. Heck, we'd even put you up for a night or two, if you wanted to hit the amusement parks. :-)

The Moody Minstrel said...

I'd never heard of salt water pools either, but that does sound like a perfectly logical idea (i.e. the "natural" chlorination using electrolysis). I'm surprised that didn't become widespread ages ago. Then again, I think modern society has long had a sort of almost Freudian fixation with chemicals. Maybe people have long seen them as a way of subduing the unholy chaos that is nature. No little bugs or unseen, mononucleic menaces from the nether gulfs rattling our worlds, like millions of needles pricking our skin, jarring us, filling us with angst, taking away EVERY LAST SHRED of faith we have in human supremacy! NO!!! We're the ones with the brains! We're the ones smart enough to produce all kinds of vile toxins in great vats that bubble and seethe in the unspeakable, blasphemous shadows of laboratories crafted by desperate hands! These poisons are then given innocuous names, put into friendly-looking bottles, and sent out among the masses to be dumped upon the frail expanses of Mother Nature as the sullen eye of the sun stares cold and lonely from its throne in a starkly empty sky! All of nature cowers before us, or it dies horribly, moaning and thrashing in its final throes, and we...

Um...birds. We were talking about birds.

That is pretty cool.

Dave said...


That is a really cool pool.


You should write for Green Peace.

Don Snabulus said...

We'll be there Friday. MiniSnab can only eat free range meats, I require at least 200 sq ft for my room, and Ladybug is going to bring her aesthetics assistant. Napa chardonnay cooled to precisely 53 degrees is all I can drink now. See you then!

By Friday, I mean "Wow! Cool. That might make a trip affordable." By room, I meant universe. By free range meats, I mean we can all figure out what we want to do. By aesthetics assistant, I mean some cool stuff to talk to Mrs. DewKid about. By drink, I mean joke about. By "See you then!", I mean "We'll be there Friday. MiniSnab can only eat free range meats, I require at least 200 sq ft for my room, and Ladybug is going to bring her aesthetics assistant. Napa chardonnay cooled to precisely 53 degrees is all I can drink now. See you then!"

Hey, wait a minute.

DewKid said...

Napa chardonnay??!? In Temecula, home of Temecula Valley wine??!? OH THE HORROR!!

DewKid said...

D - (by the way, I was ROTFLMAO)