Why does the image of a phoebe bring about a sense of peace and place within me? Is it the bird's association with old bridges and gently flowing streams, with childhood memories of long summers and the smell of moss and fresh grass? Or is it the attitude of the bird itself, placid, patient and unassumingly plain in plumage?
With fresh fall feathers, in the dawn's light, the phoebe's breast glows golden.
All winter it slurs its name "Shwee-be," or chips so sharply that the sound echoes, making it difficult to find the source.
Sometimes it permits a close approach, as this one did on the boardwalk railing in Chapel Trail Nature Preserve.
An unexpected visitor suddenly appears. "I wonder what it tastes like." The brightly colored Julia butterfly either mimics other bad-tasting butterflies or is itself unpalatable, so it passes by safely.
The Eastern Phoebe graces our Florida neighborhood all winter long.
By midsummer, when we meet again in Illinois, the phoebe is in formal dress, its breast bleached white.
This young phoebe has caught a Red Admiral butterfly. It will soon learn whether to do this again.
In August, the contrast between upper and lower parts is now striking. Sorry I cut off the beak, but I took this shot in a hurry to document it because the bird looked unfamiliar!
In early September, it is time for ragged feathers to be replaced in the post-breeding molt.
All of the above are Eastern Phoebes, but in the Southwest we find two other species, the Black Phoebe (photographed in Arizona)...
...and Say's Phoebe (digiscoped in my former back yard in New Mexico).