The places that children enjoy are the same places that black phoebe birds enjoy, open fields that end at a stream edged by thickets. My daughter and her good friend love a park with this beautiful landscapes, and in that park, we usually find a black phoebe bird using the bright blue post of the play structure as a perch to hunt insects.
I picked this bird for January 2008, because it always seems to be with us. However, in a happy coincidence that can only come from going on a research quest and finding out more, I realized that there are some key qualities of this bird that relate to the passage of time, a theme that almost all of us consider at the time of a new year in the stillness of winter.
The black phoebe's first "new year/time" quality is that one of its calls sounds like "seek." I will now listen closely to the black phoebe that visits are backyard, since all creatures are seeking something, especially on winter mornings. Its most well-known call is "pee-wee," for which it is named.
The black phoebe's second "new year/time" quality comes from its Spanish name, papamoscas, which means flycatcher. I wanted to learn more about the name, so I began reading sites in Spanish. That is when I discovered that a papamoscas, not in bird form but in the form of an odd-looking human spirit, guards a clock in a cathedral in Burgos, Spain. Every time the clock strikes an hour, the papamoscas gulps as if to catch a fly.
On New Year's Day, I hope that one of the first wild creatures I see is a black phoebe.
Black phoebes constantly and energetically seek insects to eat. They prefer to wait on low perches. Our garden phoebe has chosen as a perch the handlebar of my daughter's purple tricycle. I like to point out the phoebe flying low over the lawn to my daughter. However, I don't mention the discarded butterfly wings that I often find after the phoebe has spent time in the garden.
Phoebes like to live near a water source, and the creation of many artificial ponds in suburban environments has expanded their habitat and population. Apart from a small artificial stream that falls out of a barrel into a well of rocks, we don't have a water source in our garden, but maybe this feature is enough. Phoebes sometimes hunt for water bugs at the surface or even catch small fish.
Phoebes make cup-shaped nests from mud. They build the nests on buildings, cliffs, or bridges.
Black phoebes live throughout the coastal regions of California; in southwestern Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona, and in Mexico. They like habitats near the sea, along coastal or inland cliffs, or grasslands with scattered trees.
They are very common in playgrounds, open fields, and even backyards here in Northern California.
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