August 30, 2017
The Peak’s 2017 Summer Fun Write Stuff Contest ended on August 27th. This was the contest’s 14th consecutive year and again this year we’ve received excellent articles and poems. Thank you!
And the winners are –
- “Say! Phoebes” by Stephanie Bradley – Liz Stapleton Ogden Award (Grand Prize)
- “A Western Lifestyle” by Barbara Owings – Winner What’s Worth Preserving Category
- “Unsung Heroes” by Edie Shannon – Winner, My Hero Category
- “Say! Phoebes” by Stephanie Bradley – Winner Seeing and Doing Category
The winning submission will be published in this and subsequent issue of The Peak.
2017 Liz Stapleton-Ogden Award, Winner
Winner, Seeing & Doing Category
By Stephanie Bradley
Under the eaves, birds darted about, alighting on a short, four-foot wall. As they rested, with sprigs of brush and blades of grass dangling from their beaks, I could see that they were handsome Says Phoebe’s. Perky in flight and boisterous when perched, flicking their tails in confident punctuation, these charming flycatchers are a joy to spot. Their behavior was clear indication that they were anticipating parenthood.
The smart phoebe parents had opted for a flat spot, hidden and high from predators, on a tall pillar that supported the patio roof. With only a corner of the roof resting upon the column, much of its surface remained vacant, at least briefly. The mom (or maybe the dad, I wish they wore tags!) flitted from trees to bushes to wall, in a repetitive process resulted in a neatly assembled nest, tucked atop the pillar.
The mom nestled in. At some point eggs were laid, but between the height of the pillar and not wanting to worry the parents, I could only guess at what was transpiring. I saw the adults actively tending to nest business, occasionally catching a glimpse of mom’s beak or tail projecting out as she sought greater comfort. I was confident that the family was underway.
After a couple of weeks, tweets of a youthful, avian variety emanated from the nest. Soon we could see tiny v-shaped maws, plaintively begging mom or dad “for more.” I learned that both parents remained active caregivers to their young. The handsome mother and father darted back and forth with grub; delights of insects caught on the fly and, I suspect, actual grubs.
With the passing days, the babies’ calls became more strident as their strength and size grew with expert care and generous feedings.
We could now see two chicks. In no time, the pair began to spend their time peering about at the greater world beyond their nest, and less time calling for mom to attend to their needs.
On a lovely Saturday, I watched mom land on the nearby wall, where she began to address her children. She looked up at them in the nest. They looked down at her. She flitted and flew, an easy demonstration of the fine art of flight. Her babies watched. She performed an elegant loop and alighted again on the wall. The babies watched. She chirped encouragement. Coaching them, she gave them another demo. The babies watched.
A rather sharp flit of Mom’s tail suggested that her patience was wearing a bit thin. She chirped commands. There was a shuffling in the nest. A wing trembled then tucked back in. The mom sat soundlessly on the wall. Any child knows that nothing sounds louder than a silent mother.
The babies huddled closer to each other, jostling and wiggling, as if to convince their mom—or themselves—that they were ready. Or perhaps it was more delaying tactics. Time passed, of course; these things can’t be rushed. I was ready to be the first to give up, when one of the babies stretched itself up. Baby looked at mom. Mom looked at baby.
The message was clear: “I’m here. I won’t let anything happen to you. Come ahead.”
And the little bird sailed to a nearby bush as if it had always flown. Its sibling soon followed to the same bush. Confidant and surely exhilarated, the first flew to a tree and its brother followed suit. Then they were gone, into the world, jubilant at being out on their own as nature crafted and mothers lamented.
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