Ode to a Common Bird…

Dear Barbara, Your SORA experience so reminds me of my surprise “discoveries”, causing my cruise through “question-land”: ” What in the hell am I looking at?”, “Am I really seeing this kind of unusual bird or am I making it up?”. I admit that a certain observation caution on my part is advisable. After all I managed to convince myself I was facing a fierce bear, who turned out to be a gentle bush. The first time I discovered a GREEN HERON I just couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. I thought I was seeing a bird, but just wasn’t sure. This immobile “something” was frozen in place amongst the Riverside bridge reeds. This elongated, slender shape mimicked the reeds outline perfectly, its color creating an un-identifiable visual w/its back ground. If it hadn’t been for the sun’s shiny, quick, flicker reflection on the feathers, I would never have kept starring @ the reeds, trying to decipher the obscure “something”. & of course I had no frame work for placing what I was observing into my bird knowledge. The bird was a thrilling mystery to me, bordering on magic. My bird book put me back in touch w/ reality: I had discovered my first GREEN HERON! Now being familiar w/its habits, I can spot them fairly easily. The excitement of “new” bird is gone & the thrill of visiting its sighting remains.

& talking about the various phases of bird discovery, have you had this happened? You find yourself looking @ common, everyday birds w/a blasé attitude? I am thinking of the SPARROWS, BLACK PHOEBES, A. COOTS etc I confess: yesterday I saw a bird & thought “ Oh, it’s just a BLACK PHOEBE”. Then I remembered how fascinated I had been the first time I watched its incredibly agile air moves. The graceful, streamline, long-tailed body performed some mighty odd, spastic flight maneuvers, which made me wonder: Is this bird okay? After observing the bird a little longer I grasped that I wasn’t watching some drunk bird careening through the air, but the BLACK PHOEBE’s food chase. It was catching insects, imitating the insects’ erratic ( panicked?) flight patterns. Over time I noticed the feeding pursuit takes place after the day has warmed up the insect’s wings.

What I find it so fascinating that the San Lorenzo River banks are parceled out amongst the BLACK PHOEBES. The chirped agreement is: one BLACK PHOEBE per approx. 50’. They take their sentinel function seriously!


Clad in their fancy tuxedo, they perch debonairly on the  bushes & reeds, pumping their tails up & down continually, accompanied by a string of sharp, thrill chirps thus stating their presence. Their everyday life requires that every other BLACK PHOEBES clearly understands who reigns in what parcels. Should a straying BLACK PHOEBE cross that invisible borderline, the established parcel owner will fling itself off the perch, zoom dart like attacks @ trespasser, under-scoring its outrage w/high pitch alarm screeches. The intruder mends its thoughtless way & flees. This tyrannical behavior makes me smile, because obviously the BLACK PHOEBE is busy living up to its family name: TYRANT-FLYCATCHER. I can be pretty sure that I’ll find the BLACK PHOEBES & CLIFF SWALLOWS close to any waterbody, because both species build their nests w/mud on bridge structures & dash closely across the water surfaces. The BLACK PHOEBES feel at home in the south, southwest USA regions & also hang out in South America.


So… re-visiting my memories & knowledge I became aware that just because I had gotten used to the BLACK PHOEBE, its wonderfulness hadn’t ceased to exist. It had been me, who relegated it to the “common” bird rank. As I enjoyed the BLACK PHOEBE’s elegant silhouette, perched on top of the lamp, I send my apology for my blasé attitude straight up to it & allowed myself to open up to its ever present specialness. BTW: thanx for sending STATE OF SAN LORENZO SYMPOSIUM(click on link) info.to your friends They might want to attend this. I’ll be going for sure, because I know it will be very informative. River cheers greeting from jane

4 thoughts on “Ode to a Common Bird…

  1. So enjoying your new blog on the River and each author’s posts – I’d venture to say the River is akin to the Black Phoebe – under appreciated and taken for granted as common (or worse) – Thank you for making the River come to Life and increasing my awareness of its wonders.

    1. It’s so touching that my little Black Phoebe story took wings & chirped the thought-link of the 2 for you.Thank you for enjoying my river love. jane

  2. Your writing makes me understand that we are all very much the same, love to read your posts, Jane!

    1. oh!…Thank you so much Clare! We do have these “common” bonds, don’t we? I truly enjoy the resulting connections.
      Vivre la vie! jane

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