Tapping the animal network to bring out a bird

Spring migration has been a bit of a disappointment for me this year, as I haven’t seen as many warblers as I did last year. I’ve heard them, or more accurately the Merlin sound app has heard them clustered around me, but I’ve had relatively little luck spotting them.

As of the start of this week, I had yet to see a scarlet tanager, not a warbler but a migrant who shows up in these parts in fair numbers year to year. So when I set out on a morning walk the other day at the Pole Farm, I was hoping it would be the day I’d finally spot one.

To change my luck, I decided to walk one of my regular routes counter-clockwise, which I rarely do. I was about 45 minutes into my trek when I turned the corner that set me on a path through a short stretch of woods that would lead me toward my car in the parking lot.

I looked ahead on the trail, and an Eastern cottontail was snacking on the path. The rabbit seem unconcerned about my approach, and as I stepped closer I said aloud: “Hello there, bunny. Where are my birds? Where are the warblers?”

The rabbit then dashed into the bush, but I hoped he’d send a message to the birds that I was eager to catch a break.

One hundred yards or so later, I emerged from the woods into the main meadow where the observation deck is. As I cleared the trees on my left, I looked back and up into the trees.

Way up high was a dash of red — could it be a tanager? It might be a cardinal but — no! — it’s a scarlet tanager on a treetop branch swaying in the breeze. The bird was in profile, and the black wing contrasted clearly against the rest of its plumage, a deep, lush red.

Scarlet tanager on a branch high up in a tree.
The top photo shows the tanager in broader context; this one, cropped heavily, was the best I could get.

I brought my camera up and squeezed off several frames before the bird flew off, and a quick peek in playback gave me hope that I’d have at least one good shot.

I smiled at the thought that the rabbit might have somehow been responsible for the sighting — I’ll take help however I can get it! — and headed down the trail toward the car and home.

The shots were not as sharp as I’d hoped, and I concede that I should have expected that result. The bird was high up and far from where I was standing. My camera and my lens have their limits.

But the photo results are secondary. I finally saw my first scarlet tanager of the year, and I hope to see more.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

2 thoughts on “Tapping the animal network to bring out a bird

  1. Migration was a bit disappointing in FL this spring also. Why? Clearly each year there are fewer birds. We’re losing them.
    When I was a young birder in NJ, May typically brough a flood of migrants. I remember one morning in the Watchung Reservation, we saw 12 species of warblers in one tree. Early mornings were filled with birdsong. Sadly, those days may be gone forever.
    All birders need to become advocates for birds, for policies that will protect them and all of nature and in turn enhance our chances of survival. That’s no joke or exaggeration. Emily Dickinson said: “Hope is a thing with feathers”…. In truth we are their best hope. Peace.


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