In My Backyard #18 - Eastern Phoebe

This year, every thing has come earlier. I realize that in some areas there is still snow on the ground. But not here. For a while there it was touch and go, changing drastically from cold to hot. Unfortunately, for the last few months it's been more hot than cold. Though I am not complaining; summer as we know it has only reared it's searing head in just the last few weeks.

It has felt like perpetual spring, which is pretty lovely. Aside from the fact that some of the plants and trees have already finished blooming, we've had the early arrival of our spring birds to brighten any let-downs.

This year we were honored by the presence of a new neighbor, the Eastern Phoebe. I'm a bird-watcher, as is the rest of my family, to varying degrees, and we notice the different species of birds occupying our neighborhood. Sitting in our living room, we'll suddenly perk up at the unique song of the Baltimore Oriole and give each other a knowing look, happy that they have returned yet another year to our Poplar tree.

Other times, we'll be walking and suddenly hear a distinct song. We'll stop and stare into the trees for a period and I can just imagine the neighbors going, "There's that strange Yarbrough family again, staring into the trees at heaven knows what."

Earlier this year, we were sprawled on the front lawn enjoying the warm sun when we were visited by a new species. The grayish bird fluttered sporadically to-and-fro just inches from my sister's head before returning to its perch in the Crepe Myrtle. I was immediately fixated by its behavior, let alone the familiarity with which it regarded us.

Another encounter, the one in which I was able to take these pictures, occurred while I was taking pictures of a current project. The phoebe fluttered around just inches from me as if it was intrigued by what I was doing. For once I had a camera and I wasted little time in turning my lens to the bird. Sadly, the pictures do not do the bird justice. Because of the light behind it you are unable to see its coloring.

I was then able to identify it as an Eastern Phoebe, a species we had never seen before. I found out that it was a flycatcher and its tendency toward sporadic fluttering allowed them to quickly catch insects, their natural diet. I also learned that they like to nest in nooks of buildings and therefore are not overly afraid of humans. Evidenced by the few encounters of our own.

The funny thing is, they are known to be loners. And indeed, each time we saw one, there was just one. I had a little trouble knowing for sure what they were because when I first saw one, it had a faint yellow tint to its belly, but the next one's were nearly solid gray. I read that this is typical of fresh fall plumage, though why they would appear that way in late winter, early spring, I cannot say.

Unfortunately, since then I haven't seen anymore. Maybe they merely stopped by looking for a good place to nest before moving on. My fingers are crossed, hoping to see them some more this year. But even more so do I hope they return next year and the next, and so on, to become permanent residents, like the Oriole have. Though we may live in a neighborhood surrounded by houses and people, we do have some nature, more than a city-dweller would, and I am only too pleased.

Are you familiar with phoebes? If you want to know a little more about them, and hear their songs, visit the link, All About Birds.

Thanks for reading!

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