Birding Notes

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

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Summer Tanager Day

A Summer Tanager has been singing in the woods often since its arrival in mid April, and the pik-a-tuk calls of a pair frequently lace through the leaves of the trees around the house, but I hadn’t been able to see one until today. This morning after breakfast, the rumors continued. Through the kitchen window I saw movement in the big, floppy green leaves of the white oak branches that hang over the deck and went outside – and could hear the pik-a-tuk calls and see the rustling movement as birds moved through the foliage, but they remained mostly hidden still, moving further and further away.

It was late in the morning as I walked up the driveway toward the mailbox – when my mind was on something else entirely and I least expected it – when a male Summer Tanager appeared right in front of me, perched on a low branch of a pecan tree. It sat there, calm and quiet, stretched out in its typical, rather low posture, giving me a beautiful close-up view, deep blushing-red all over, with darker, shadowed red wings and long, heavy bill. The feathers on his crown were fluffed into a crest.

A little further up the driveway, in accidental contrast to the sturdy, handsome, deliberate Tanager, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovered like a whisper, low over a carpet of tiny, low-growing wildflowers that spread in a yellow-spotted cloud over an open stretch of the yard. Many of the flowers have gone to fluffy seeds, like dandelions, and she was gathering the fluff.

It was a warm, sunny, perfect May Day with a soft blue sky thickly scattered with loose white clouds, and lots of birdsong and activity.


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