Category Archives: Perching Birds

Blue Grosbeak

It was easy to see this Blue Grosbeak flitting along in the grass of a roadside field, although I wasn’t sure what it was. I eased out of the car and was able to get an image with a clear view of his head.

Blue Grosbeak
Male Blue Grosbeak – click image for larger view

Grosbeaks are in the Cardinalidae family along with Cardinals, Buntings and Tanagers, all identifiable by their prominent bill. The Blue Grosbeak is slightly larger than an Indigo Bunting and breeding males have chestnut wingbars.

Summer Tanager

A flash of red appeared in the middle of the road in front of us as we were leaving a wildlife management area. My first thought was Cardinal, but the shape wasn’t quite right.

Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager

A peak through my zoomed out lens revealed that it was a Summer Tanager! He flew to a nearby tree and I got a couple shots out the window. There was room to pull over and I stealthily got out of the car. The perch he selected wasn’t the best for a clear view, but his color in the patch of sun out-weighed a stick across his face for me.

Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager

Turns out there were actually three or four of them zipping around, including at least one female. The female is yellow and her color was too close to the the leaves where she landed and too far away to get a focused shot. Then they all scattered into the woods when another car approached.

Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager

Crested Flycatcher

Some afternoons in the spring our backyard is a highway for small birds traveling along the edge of the woods. They generally don’t stop long, but this bird was probably a juvenile and appeared to be waiting on some parental guidance.

Crested Flycatcher
Crested Flycatcher

The Merlin Bird ID app identified this as either an Ash-throated Flycatcher or Great Crested Flycatcher from the two photos below. The Great Crested is most likely to be found in South Carolina.

Crested Flycatcher
Crested Flycatcher

Also,¬† the “lemon-yellow belly” description of the Great Crested was what first made me notice him as it flashed in the sun.

Crested Flycatcher
Crested Flycatcher

Grackle with a Double Snack

With his mouth full of bugs this Grackle paused a couple minutes at the edge of the pond before flying off to his nest.

Grackle with Bugs
Grackle with Bugs

I didn’t see him make the catch and have no idea how he got these two bugs in his beak at once. Maybe the effort was why he rested before heading to his nest.

Grackle with Bugs
Grackle with Bugs

He eventually flew out to this tree, aka “the skinny tree,” where his nest seemed to be in the broken Wood Duck box seen on the far side of the trunk.

Grackle Above Alligator
Grackle Above Alligator

An Alligator was patrolling the water around the tree. The Grackle dive-bombed the Alligator several times with no effect.

There was at least one turtle in the water and there is one Great Blue Heron and three Great Egret nests with chicks in the branches above, either of which would be more enticing to the gator.

Grackle with a Snack

I spotted this shimmery Grackle not far from those I saw earlier in the month poking in the water. This one had caught a dragonfly and was attempting to dunk it in the pond.

Grackle with Dragonfly
Grackle with Dragonfly

He jumped closer to the water and bent down a few times but didn’t seem satisfied.

Grackle with Dragonfly
Grackle with Dragonfly

As sometimes happens, I got distracted by other activity around the pond and didn’t see if he had success or just flew off.

Grackle with Dragonfly
Grackle with Dragonfly

Eastern Phoebe

Flycatchers around the marsh can be difficult to photograph as they like to perch on the side of a tree hanging over the water resulting in obstructed views. And they are fast!

This fellow was ahead of me as I wondered up the side of a pond,  flitting in and out of trees and occasionally swooping out over the water. He finally took a break on some pretty dried vegetation.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe – click photo for larger view

This time he was rewarded with a large catch. It looks like a dragonfly even though he has it scrunched up a bit. The leafless trees gave me a clear shot but also resulted in a lot of background busyness. He promptly turned his back on me and gulped it down.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe – click photo for larger view

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher…

…I think. Or maybe a Vireo.

It looks a lot like the Gnatchatcher drawing in the Peterson Field Guide and less like the photos on Cornell’s All About Birds website. The eye ring points to a Vireo.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Either way, it was a perky energetic bird that mostly stayed hidden by branches of the trees he was inspecting. A dead limb let me get a few clear shots.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

A flash of the tail and he was gone.

I’ve been calling these small birds “Song Birds” but have learned while trying to identify this bird that as members of the order Passeriformes they are “Perching Birds.” The arrangement of their toes, with three pointing forward and one backward, facilitates perching. Somehow I’ve been skipping over that in my bird ID activities.