Yesterday I felt glum. I may have spoken too soon, expressing gratitude that both phoebe parents were alive. All day long the chicks screeched non-stop, while only one parent came to feed them, instead of two flying back and forth as they had been. It seemed like an hour at a time went by without anyone stuffing a mouth. When it cooled off, I sat outside and timed it, and there were intervals as long as 20 minutes while the babies cried before someone came to feed one. I wondered many things: was one parent killed by a falcon? or a cat? had one simply quit? was the other one out searching for its mate and just coming back intermittently with a token dragonfly or cricket? would the chicks survive? should I buy mealworms? Or, was I misperceiving reality?
I’m grateful to Deb for checking on the mealworm supply in town this morning, and grateful that they didn’t seem to be needed after all. Today, it still seems only one parent is feeding, but at least it’s more frequent, and the babies are full enough to fall asleep between bugs.
But what is happening? It’s a mystery, compounded by the fact that this evening I saw two perfectly-adult-looking phoebes land in the apricot tree, and one fed the other a grasshopper. Is one phoebe parent still out feeding some from the first clutch? maybe that last straggler out of the nest? Or, did one parent run off to court a new mate? Or, were those two grown chicks from the first clutch, courting, playing, or practicing? And, how does this situation relate to what I observed a few days ago, two phoebes chasing one another through the junipers?
I’m grateful for how the mystery of nature piques my curiosity, and grateful that I’m not attached to knowing answers. I’m grateful the babies seem to be getting enough food again after yesterday’s mysterious, vociferous hunger. I’ll be grateful tomorrow if I wake up alive and get to watch the phoebe mystery further unfold.