Category Archives: Perching Birds

Male Summer Tanager

Yesterday I spent some time in a quiet corner of Magnolia Plantation where pine forest and marshland come together. There is a small field that is kept mowed around a few scraggly trees, perfect for a Summer Tanager to hunt for bugs.

Summer Tanager
Male Summer Tanager

I watched this one flit back and forth in the higher tree branches until he took a break down closer to the ground.

Summer Tanager
Male Summer Tanager

Grackle Bath Time

There had been a heavy rain the night before and the leftover puddles of water made a great bird bath. This Common Grackle showed off his iridescence before he jumped in.

Common Grackle
Common Grackle

Head first, he splashed some water around.

Common Grackle Bathing
Common Grackle Bathing

Grackles tend to hang out in flocks and make a lot of noise. This one was off on his own and quietly went about his bath ritual.

Common Grackle Bathing
Common Grackle Bathing

Splish, splash.

Common Grackle Bathing
Common Grackle Bathing

This wider view shows the trail and a Squirrel ignoring the bathing proceedings.

Common Grackle Bathing, Squirrel Watching
Common Grackle Bathing, Squirrel Watching

Northern Mockingbird

His animated behavior brought my attention to this Northern Mockingbird perched in a well clipped hedge. He seemed to have an itch and something to say.

Zoom in on this first image to see the papillae or spines on the roof of his mouth, something I rarely see in my bird photographs.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

He was not at all concerned that I was watching.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

All fluffed up after his scratching episode this fellow looks like a youngster. It was the last day of October and the references say Mockingbirds can have up to three broods a year.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

Finally, he struck a Mockingbird pose then went about his business down the hedge.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

Cardinal: A Classic

Despite seeing Northern Cardinals pretty regularly, I found it a challenge to get a good image of one. This one surprised me landing over my head as I was watching warblers at ground level. He had a lot going for him: classic pose with his crest up, aligned to the sun for the catch light in his eye, his feathers tidy and uniformly colored and oh, yes, that red.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Most of the leaves had fallen off the tree where he perched giving me a clear view. Cardinals in our area tend to be quite skittish; this one didn’t seem to care that I was watching him.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

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.