phoebe

A burst of activity at the top of one of the tall locusts: chickadees scold, a phoebe catches gnats, and other birds sit shining in the sun.

Phoebes mate in the rain, their thin branch bobbing as they touch tails. I crush a slow flood-water mosquito with a clap of my hands.

A phoebe catches insects right in front of the porch with a sound like the snapping of fingers as each exoskeleton is crushed in its bill.

Two phoebes hawk insects by the springhouse, while Acadian and great-crested flycatchers call from the woods. It’s a bad day to be a fly.

It’s damp but not raining. A steady drizzle of birdsong, among which I hear a distant phoebe for the first time since the cold snap hit.

Sunrise, and seven species of birds are calling—but not the phoebe, who flies in and out of the old nest under the springhouse eaves.

Bright sun. From the valley, four gunshots in quick succession, followed by silence. A phoebe circles the house singing, as if sizing me up.