Recently I went on a field trip sponsored by the Birmingham Audubon Society. We spent a Saturday morning at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to see if we could spot any migratory birds making their way from cooler to warmer climes. I always enjoy getting out in nature, and the Botanical Gardens offers the opportunity without even leaving the city confines.
I took along my camera, not imagining that I would actually get any bird photos, but knowing that there would be something worth capturing on film. The good thing about going with a group was that there were people who could share knowledge about the flora and fauna we encountered along the way. I saw some beautiful native plants that I would not have been able to name without help from friends.
|"Hearts-a-bustin'" (Euonymus americanus)|
Also known as strawberry bush
|Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)|
|American Beauty Berry (Callicarpe americana)|
|Our little band putting a sight on some avian life|
|Eastern phoebe at a distance|
The highlight for all of us was a close encounter with a phoebe, a variety of eastern flycatcher. We were hiking a service road that runs along a ridge at the upper end of the Botanical Gardens. Up ahead in the distance we saw a small flock of phoebes flittering about in the shrubs beside the pathway. One of them flew up toward us and alighted in a bush about 20 or 30 feet away. Some one said, “Oh, I’ve never seen one that close.” I took up my camera and quickly got a shot, thinking that would be my only chance, and hoping the bird would be discernable in the picture. To our surprise, the little phoebe then flew toward us again, stopping in a bush even closer. All in our party stood still, watching and quietly remarking at the sight.
|The phoebe came closer|
to get a good look at us
Amazingly, the little bird then flew right up to our group and stopped on a branch just a arms length away from me. She fluffed her feathers and cocked her head, looking me in the eye, so it seemed. The she flew up to me, right in front of my face, but finding no spot to light returned to the branch in front of me. She seemed content to pause and commune with us for a few minutes.
|She sat for a regular photo shoot |
from the group
One person said, “See if she will hop on your finger.” I slowly reached out my hand and extended my forefinger in front of the bird. She eyed my finger, eyed me, and then flew up to my shoulder. She did not land, but instead returned to the branch of the shrub. There was a fly of some sort hovering there, I told, her, “Go catch that fly” (as if the phoebe could understand human speech). She did in fact see the insect, flew down to it but missed. After that, the bird flew on past us to another bush along the path. With that encounter, we proceeded down the road where we would encounter the hawks in the woods, seeking their prey.
It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. I was glad I went along, and look forward to other natural encounters in the future. I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity to explore nature. There are many bird-watching groups around that can offer support and guidance in connecting with the natural world.