Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

01 May 2008


I go in and out of my front door all the time. When I first saw the spot of mud on the window (the big black spot in the photo), I didn't really think about what it was or how it got there.

I only thought, "I'll have to get out there and clean that window."

See the bird next to the spot?

Sayornis phoebe, the Eastern phoebe.

Phoebes are flycatchers, and will fly off a perch, snatch a flying bug, and fly back to the perch.

They are tail-waggers, which means they drop their tail feathers and jerk them back up, over and over.

They are named after their call: phoebe! phoebe!, which they repeat endlessly and at length, until you are ready to blast them with your Airzooka in exasperation.

(I was mildly surprised that when our son learned to talk, he did not call them "Shut up, phoebe"s. Because that's what I mostly call them: "Shut up, phoebe!")

Phoebes build mud nests.

Mud nests about 5 inches in diameter. The ledge is just over an inch wide. This fact will not stop a pair of phoebes from plastering the entire top of the ledge with mud and bits of moss in the vain hope that maybe the ledge just needs a little encouragement to grow wider.

I'm hoping the paper I stapled over the top of the door will discourage them. I love birds, but even if the ledge was wide enough, I'm not giving up my front door to a tyrant flycatcher!

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Blogger Marguerite said...

Glad to see someone else has Phoebes, even if you're determined not to let them build a nest over your door.

My favorite bird book, Kitchen Table Bird Book, is 24 years old and describes them as declining in number.

Fortunately you don't need to feel guilty about making them nest elsewhere since the spot they've chosen on your house is obviously not suitable. Maybe that's why they are/were declining?

1:32 PM  
Blogger Knitting Linguist said...

Hope apparently springs eternal in the breast of a bird -- I hope they find a spot that's a bit less in the way, and a bit more conducive to good nest-building!

3:47 PM  
Blogger Alwen said...

The Cornell website lists their current status as "Populations stable or slightly increasing."

Lots of good info there:

Not only does it make a mess of the white paint, it's a waste of their nest-building energy.

Fortunately it looks like stapling paper over the little ledge has sent them searching for a better nesting site.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Donna Lee said...

We are finding a surplus of robins this year. There is a huge flock that seems to have taken over the neighborhood and robins are everywhere. I've never seen so many in one flock around here. There aren't as many jays (I'm ok with that, they're nasty) and fewer cardinals. I love to watch them fly around the yard with their red feathers.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Rose Red said...

Such a great photo of Shut Up Phoebe. Until today, I did not know there was such a bird - cool! But a pain about the whole mud nest on the white door frame thing, glad the paper trick did the job!

1:08 AM  
Blogger Roxie said...

We had similar problems with barn swallows when I was a kid. It was my job to take a hose and blast away the new construction daily. I always felt so, so sorry for the poor little homebuilders.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Bells said...

my first thought on seeing it was that it looked like our kookaburra but on closer inspection, not so much. they too have a very distinctive call though - I wonder if there's a relationship?

And I really can't imagine a bird whose call sounds like a girl's name!

5:04 AM  

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