Nature's Musings

Photo Essay: Birds & Us

Photo essay by Michael B Wilkes And Penny Wilkes: Text by Penny Wilkes

White Pelicans

We share a variety of words with bird activities and sounds.  

             Stop that squawking. Start feeling chipper. 

                      If a pelican . . . so can you. 

White Pelicans

Wake up and feel fine feathered.

White Headed Sparrow

Or, maybe you’re just winging it today?

Black Phoebe

Michael Wilkes, my husband and a retired architect, used to take photographs of the built environment. I asked him to take a photo of my favorite bird, a black phoebe. He did and won first place at the San Diego Fair. Ever since he has enjoyed taking bird photographs with his big lenses. 

Saying one is feather-brained is a compliment.

Lesser Golden Finch

Just keep your beak up. Don’t get in a twitter unless it turns into a trill of birdsong. Stay Tweet.

An Osprey

Spend time on the fly.

If you feel peckish, find your favorite snack.  Then keep your head down and work. 

A house sparrow

We had moved to an apartment while we remodelled our house. I spent free time at a park next door writing. A black bird kept flying by. When he flew upside down in  twirls, I noticed a heart on his chest. The next day I brought him seed and he paid no attention. He cocked his head at me as if I really had no clue. Which I didn’t.  That night I searched and discovered he was a flycatcher and ate bugs.

Black phoebe (flycatcher)

I watched him for days until he brought a friend and did a flying dance in the middle of the park. I got close but not too close. They led me to a nest with little heads popping up.

Peregrine season is about to begin where the pair romance, build an aerie, and take turns minding the nest. When the fledges toddle out, the parents teach flying and hunting lessons. I love to watch what I call, “flying fisticuffs” where the fledges  attack one another in mock battles as they learn self-defense. We have lots of photos of their activities.

A pair of romancing peregrines

Lady Jane was frustrated with her mate because he did not bring food as he just wanted to romance her.  Eggs are due soon. Then he will have to focus on the nest and feeding and all that . . . beyond the fun he enjoys.

A solo peregrine

I prefer to photograph with my cellphone. I want “moments in movement” so I do not have to set up a tripod or carry a huge camera around. As for the challenges of bird photography, one word: patience. Today I heard a woodpecker and chased him for two blocks. No photo. During my morning runs, a black phoebe flies and lands and flies away again. They hunt for insects and are called flycatchers. I enjoy photos I can take. The eyes enjoy what the camera cannot capture. Then when I least expect it, a fun opportunity arrives like the photo below.

This is an example of what I love to capture. A finch landed on a photograph of a bird. 

A finch perched on a bird picture

Sing beyond a peep. Get raven about your successes. 


Don’t duck opportunities and challenges. 

Ducks with ducklings

You don’t have to get all your ducks in a row to find success and have fun…

Penny Wilkes,  served as a science editor, travel and nature writer and columnist. An award-winning writer and poet, she has published a collection of short stories, Seven Smooth Stones. Her published poetry collections include: Whispers from the Land, In Spite of War, and Flying Lessons. Her Blog on The Write Life features life skills, creativity, and writing: and at My photoblog is @:

Michael B Wilkes is an award winning architect and  photographer who has collaborated on three books of poems with his wife Penny Wilkes. On two occasions he has received recognition among the 100 Most Influential peoples in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. Michael B Wilkes site:



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