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


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