Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Familiar, Burry Call

On a cool, wet, deeply cloudy morning, our woods finally turned green, just now recovering from the freeze of four weeks ago and opening new leaves. The windows of our bedroom were open, and I was making the bed and half-listening to bird songs and the rustle of wind in the leaves, when I heard a familiar "chik-burrr!" A sound I’d been hoping to hear for several days. I grabbed my binoculars and hurried outside – and sure enough, there he was, up in the foliage of the treetops near the edge of the woods – a brilliant splash of intense red with jet-black wings. A Scarlet Tanager.

Scarlet Tanagers have been back in the area for at least a week or two now. I’ve heard them singing and calling along the Oconee River and even in another part of our neighborhood. But I was beginning to think that maybe we wouldn’t have them in the woods around our house this year – so I was especially happy to hear its call, and I’m hoping it might stay around. Despite their flamboyant coloring, Scarlet Tanagers are rather reclusive, often hard to find, most often hanging out among dense clusters of leaves, even when singing. They’re a deep woodland species particularly sensitive to forest fragmentation, so their presence is a welcome reassurance that our woods are still healthy enough to attract them.


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