Saturday, May 17, 2014

Belleplain Tanagers and Thoughts on Gifts and Life Looks

 [Adult male Summer Tanager in Belleplain State Forest, NJ along Tom Field Road today. A gift. . .]

Every now and then a bird gives you a gift, revealing itself to you in perfect light at close range.  You never know when it's going to happen, which is one reason to keep going in the field day after day and year after year.  Some people use the phrase "life look" to mean what I'm talking about here.  It's not that it's a life bird, but rather that it's the best look you've ever had at this species. The look of a lifetime.

Today was my life look day for Summer Tanager, though I have to clarify by saying I've seen plenty of these at close range on the Texas coast and elsewhere.  But today in Belleplain State Forest we saw males, and females, and males and females interacting together, and a really groovy looking red and yellow-green first year male.  They seemed to be coming out to show themselves to us, too, working the roadsides or landing in trees right above our heads.  Like, for example, the bird pictured above, which we'd been hearing and glimpsing but not really seeing well when it decided to alight in bare branches directly overhead.  I could only say, "Summer Tanager, right there," but that was enough for my companions Tim and Allison to find it.

[One groovy looking bird: a first spring male Summer Tanager in Belleplain this morning, decked out in first year yellow green and second year red. Click to enlarge photos.]

Only the Summer Tanagers were life looks today, but we had other gifts, like two rival male Louisiana Waterthrushes countersinging on opposite sides of the road, or a male Hooded Warbler that sat up for a good if quick view, or a Worm-eating Warbler feeding on dead leaf clusters as they so often do.  You can't make birds do this stuff, you can only hope they do.


  1. That was such an excellent day of birding! Can't wait to get out there with you again!

    1. It was awesome, made better 'cause you were along1