Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Phoebulous St. Edward’s Park

with 31 comments

You saw last time in two horizontal photographs that on June 11th I documented parts of the cliffs along Bull Creek in St. Edward’s Park. Today’s first picture is a vertical version of the previous post’s first picture. Perhaps you’re wondering how the large black willow mysteriously vanished; the answer is that I waded far enough into the creek to get out from under the tree and have a clear shot at the cliff.

At one point, as I zoomed in to the max (400mm) on the top of the cliff and began to compose an image, a little bird flew into the frame and landed. Later Shannon Westveer identified the visitor as an Eastern phoebe, Sayornis phoebe, which you can see a lot better in the crop below.

Click to enlarge.

After I’d prepared this post I came across a mention in David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers of the comic poem “Darius Green and His Flying Machine,” written by J.T. Trowbridge before 1870. It contains these lines:

“Birds can fly,
An’ why can’t I?
Must we give in,”
Says he with a grin,
” ‘T the bluebird an’ phoebe
Are smarter ‘n we be?”

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2019 at 4:44 AM

31 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. That delicate falls is perfect for a little bird, and the combination’s perfect for a photographer. I almost can hear the plashing of the water; the phoebe no doubt could.

    Your mention of the Wright brothers reminded me of this detail about Paul Laurence Dunbar’s life, taken from the Poetry Foundation’s biography of him: “[Dunbar] worked as editor of the short-lived Dayton Tattler, a Black newspaper published by classmate Orville Wright, who later gained fame with brother Wilbur Wright as inventors of the airplane.”


    June 27, 2019 at 6:58 AM

    • The connection isn’t coincidental. After you posted “The Sparrow” three days ago I looked at a brief online biography and saw that Dunbar lived in Dayton. I noticed that his home there is open to visitors three days a week. Then I saw that the National Park Service runs the much larger Wright Brothers National Memorial. That prompted me to take The Wright Brothers out of the library. From the book I learned that they did the printing for Dunbar that you just mentioned. My reading also led to the humorous mention of the phoebe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2019 at 8:10 AM

  2. I’ve taken that exact same shot (your first)–perhaps not as well, but I love the view. Nice of the phoebe to join in!


    June 27, 2019 at 7:55 AM

    • I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve visited this spot in the park, given that you’re in this general part of town. Do you know whether your photo shows the leaning ashe juniper trunks that form a triangle at the top of the cliff? The other day I noticed several freshly fallen trees in Great Hills Park, apparent casualties of our recent rain and rushing creeks, and now I’m wondering how long ago the triangle of leaning tree trunks has been there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2019 at 8:18 AM

      • I just checked my photos from a January walk and I got the water fall, but not the trees above. You’re right though, we’ve had such windy, rainy storms, it’s probably a new lean. I love that in your photo–it’s what first caught my eye.


        June 27, 2019 at 10:09 AM

        • Thanks for checking. Because those leaning trees appeal to you, you might want to go back to see and perhaps photograph them yourself while they’re still there. You never know when the one with the lighter bark might come down altogether. And now you’ve made me wonder whether there’s any easy/safe/legal way to get up to the top of that section of cliff.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 27, 2019 at 10:22 AM

  3. Wonderful photos, Steve, seeing the ribbons of water and the trail it makes in Bull Creek. Fun to see the phoebe, too, a bird who can often be found near water. I love that book, and found it fascinating that the Wright Bros. were always using birds as their models for flying.

    Jet Eliot

    June 27, 2019 at 7:58 AM

    • Unlike the Wright Brothers, who extensively observed how birds fly and succeeded with human flight because of those observations, I know very little about birds. For example, your statement that phoebes can often be found near water is new to me, as was the bird itself (which is why I had to turn to birders for the identification).

      For approximately the first two-thirds of my time in Austin I lived in various places on the prairie side of town. Since we moved to the hilly western side in 2004 I’ve been thankful for the presence right in my neighborhood of creeks and cliffs like what you see in this post. (Quick, algebra students: in approximately what year did Schwartzman move to Austin?)

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2019 at 8:37 AM

  4. Great photo essay! I love that little bird, which you cropped out so well.

    Peter Klopp

    June 27, 2019 at 8:36 AM

    • Credit goes to my Canon 5DS R, which with 50 megapixels leaves enough of them in a crop to produce a good image. Canon’s 100–400mm L-series lens is also excellent (even if, or probably because, it’s heavy).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2019 at 8:55 AM

  5. A nice lush scene, and a nice shot of a cute bird, I hear their little song pretty frequently around upstate NY. When I first saw the title, I thought, uh-oh, I don’t know that word, better look it up, that’s a pretty cool coinage!

    Robert Parker

    June 27, 2019 at 9:09 AM

    • I don’t think my coinage phoebulous will ever become the coin of the realm, but who knows? Who’d’ve thought a dictionary would start including emojis?


      And speaking of dictionaries, I see that the Greek goddess Phoibē (Phoebe) got her name from the feminine of phoibos, which meant ‘shining.’

      Like some other readers, and decidedly unlike me, you’re familiar with the phoebe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2019 at 9:29 AM

      • I don’t actually remember seeing it that often, I’m not a bird-watcher, but certainly hearing it.

        Robert Parker

        June 27, 2019 at 9:37 AM

        • Even “not that often” puts you ahead of me. Of course I could’ve heard or seen it without knowing which kind of bird was involved. Tangentially I’ll add that bird started out in Old English as brid.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 27, 2019 at 9:51 AM

  6. I remember that fun poem! I was delighted by the photo of the phoebe. Wonderful.


    June 27, 2019 at 9:13 AM

    • You’re way ahead of me when it comes to that poem; I’d never even heard of it or its author. You’re also way ahead of me with respect to phoebes, and probably all other birds as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2019 at 9:31 AM

      • Oh definitely not~I can tell a crane from a cardinal, but most others, not so much.


        June 27, 2019 at 10:15 PM

        • Then we’re in the same boat when it comes to birds.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 28, 2019 at 5:00 AM

          • Every now and again we get lucky though, as you did. Once I took a photo that I thought was a bad photo of a little brown bird, and it turned out to be a swamp sparrow. They do enliven the landscape, don’t they?


            June 28, 2019 at 8:38 AM

  7. It was a 3 in 1 moment, Steve: A refreshing foot bath, a novel view, and a phoebulus bird!


    June 27, 2019 at 6:07 PM

  8. It’s always a treat when a little birdie drops in. St. Edward’s Park seems a neat place to explore.

    Steve Gingold

    June 28, 2019 at 2:43 AM

    • It is, and it’s not even 10 minutes from home. It’s one of several places along Bull Creek that I go to take pictures. You could say that Bull Creek is my Quabbin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2019 at 5:15 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: