Monday, November 18, 2013

In Our Backyard

From my dining room window on a recent Saturday morning, I watched titmice, chickadees and cardinals flitting back and forth between our two bird feeders in the backyard. Suddenly a titmouse flew toward the window, landing on a lower limb of our Japanese maple tree just a few yards away. He was holding a seed in his beak. He glanced swiftly this way and that, searching for the perfect spot to break open his treasure. 

Before he could complete his task, my attention was drawn to a second titmouse that landed in the very top of the tree. He too, was carrying a seed. “Oh what a perfect photo,” I thought. But I didn’t dare move. We were exactly eye level with only a window and six feet of distance separating us. I guess he wasn’t comfortable with me watching, though I stood still. He swiftly made a dive and was swallowed up by the tree leaves and branches.

Photo: Titmouse holding sunflower seed.  Taken a couple years ago.

I was about to turn away when a movement caught my eye. Sitting where the second titmouse had been, sat a striking handsome bird. My brain was working fast; too fast to recall specific thoughts. It was searching through my memory bank. “What bird is this?” I didn’t recognize it.

My mind quickly reviewed similar birds I’d found in my North Carolina bird book. This handsome fella had a trim black beak. Just above the beak and across the top of his head was a brownish to dark gray color. A similar color covered his back and the top side of his wings. Beneath the throat and down the breast was a bright white that blended into a gorgeous soft pastel yellow. Maybe it’s just the way the light hit him. What I saw through the window was beautiful to my eyes. From a distance I wouldn’t have noticed. Perhaps the reflections of light was ideal on such a gray, overcast day.

Suddenly I had it. “Yes! That’s it.” I grabbed my book and quickly flipped through the richly colored photos. The bird had vanished from the tree now, but there it was in the book. There on the page sat an eastern phoebe. Very similar to the one I had just seen. 

Next, I ran a quick google search and there it was again; a lovely eastern phoebe was identified in many photographs, several taken by National Geographic photographers. According to one resource, this bird displays a soft yellow breast during the fall of the year.

Cold weather is just around the corner. This is one of many reasons I love our Japanese maple tree just beyond my dining room window. I can enjoy nature from the warmth of home if I pay close attention.