Media producer Roger McCord used his expert photography skills to illustrate his debut book “Flight of the Phoebes.” Derek Davis

Sometimes authors get ideas for their books from something right under their noses.

For Roger McCord, inspiration came from under his porch.

McCord, 69, of Cumberland, has a nest under his porch that has been home for some time to a family of phoebes, medium-sized, insect-eating birds. He also spent about ten years as stay-at-home dad with his two children – a boy and girl, now grown – and so he had spent a lot of time looking at the world through his children’s eyes, while trying to help them make sense of it all.

His experiences and the nest under his porch helped him conceive and create his first children’s book, “Flight of the Phoebes” (Maine Authors Publishing), which came out in December. The 28-page book follows a father and daughter as they document the 16-day nest-to-flight cycle of the Maine phoebes.

Media producer Roger McCord used his expert photography skills to illustrate his debut book “Flight of the Phoebes.” Derek Davis

The fictional dad and his daughter, Maya, talk about the birds, nature and life. McCord, a former copy editor at the Portland Press Herald and a content producer for The Maine Monitor news website, uses his journalism background and graphic arts skill to create photo illustrations of the phoebes in action.


The daughter in the story, Maya, is a composite, drawn from McCord’s observations of his own daughter, Hannah, and his two grandnieces, Bianca and Anderson. The book includes a description of the Eastern Phoebe, belonging to the genus Sayornis, which is a fly-catching bird that often returns to the same nesting spot year after year.

Maya and her dad watch the baby birds being fed and growing. They watch them grow feathers. They talk about what the birds eat and how when they’ve grown big enough and strong enough and smart enough, they will leave the nest. Just like kids do.

The book has educational elements; readers will learn about the birds and how they raise their young. At the same time, it’s lyrical and poignant, especially in the father-daughter exchanges.

A page from “Flight of the Phoebes” Image courtesy of Roger McCord and Maine Authors Publishing

When the birds start to leave the nest, Maya’s dad sets up a camera on a stand nearby and father and daughter watch them fly off, one at time, until there’s only one left. After some encouragement from Maya, that bird heads off too.

“Wow, that was awesome,” said Maya. “But now it’s like…. I already miss’em, you know?”

“I do know what you mean,” her dad said. “And someday, when you and Isaiah fly off to your big adventures, I’ll miss you, too.”


McCord said he got an important piece of advice in writing the book from his wife, Su Sepples, a career educator.

“She said to write up to kids, they’re smart, and that really guided me,” McCord said.

McCord also used his video skills to document the phoebes under his porch for a feature on the Maine Monitor website called “The Feeding Frenzy,” in 2022. The video shows McCord setting up his camera and follows the baby birds as they eat and grow before flying away. So families who read the book can see the phoebes in action.

For more information or to buy the book, go to

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