Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Scarlet Tanager in a Buckeye Tree

...a light patter of raindrops was falling against the dome of our oversized umbrella as we walked the Little Miami trail listening to the evening songs of Wood Thrushes and other wood warblers. "I hope we see a male Scarlet Tanager," I said to Rick. "I haven't seen one yet this year, and he would be beautiful in the rain." We walked on and saw lots of birds, but no tanager. Eventually it stopped raining and the sun came out in a fitful burst to light the treetops and help dry the rain, and suddenly, there he was...fiery crimson in the buckeye tree...

A male Scarlet Tanager radiates color in the shadows of evening along the Little Miami River.

...in its only appearance of the day, a shaft of the sun's light makes it through the canopy and ignites the bird's feathers against the yellows and greens of the buckeye tree's leaves.

...even though a shaft of sunlight was highlighting the bird, the evening sun was weak and the low light required a high ISO, draining the photo of detail (but to me a fuzzy Scarlet Tanager is better than no tanager at all...).

Of all the spring migrants, Scarlet Tanagers hold a special place in my heart. They were the first "exotic" bird I learned as a child. When I was really young, my parents hung an Audubon print of the Scarlet Tanager in my bedroom. I loved that old-fashioned print, and I loved knowing that the fiery red bird with coal black wings was a Scarlet Tanager. It was a beautiful bird and had a beautiful sounding name (I also remember wondering why none of my friends loved the bird or thought the painting was cool...).

Today when I looked at my fuzzy photos, I fell in love with the bird all over again. The contrast between the bright crimson and the spring greens sparked ideas in my head, and I couldn't put the oil pastels down and decided to go for grungy impressionism...

Painting 147. Scarlet Tanager in the Buckeye Tree
(Oil Pastel, 10x7 Sennelier Oil Pastel paper)

Painting 148. Scarlet Tanager Looking Up
(Oil Pastel, 10x8 Sennelier Oil Pastel paper)

Painting 149. Scarlet Tanager From Behind
(Oil Pastel, 10x8 Sennelier Oil Pastel paper)

...one more Scarlet Tanager story, and then I'll be quiet! In the early 90s I was birding at Sharon Woods in Hamilton County with my parents and my Grandma B. It was the first time Grandma had ever been "birding," and while we were walking, I said to her, "If we're lucky you'll get to see a Scarlet Tanager!" Of course, I knew the chances of that were slim because it was midsummer and the leaves were thick...and the canopy where the tanagers usually hung out was extremely high, but...Grandma with her Irish-Lass-Luck lucked out. Within seconds of the words leaving my mouth a male Scarlet flew down and landed on a branch no more than 3 feet away...and at eye level!!! We all stood there stunned and stared at the bird for over a minute. He was so gorgeous and so close...and just perched there watching us as we watched him. It's never happened since. I used to go to Sharon Woods all the time and walk that trail. I'd stop every time I got to that spot and watch and wait...

...and I still have an Audubon print of a Scarlet Tanager in my bedroom (it's a bigger print, and it's in the bathroom, but it's there!).


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31 comments:

Anna said...

Kelly, beautiful contrast, red and green - getting ready for xmas, lol. Thanks for sharing, hope all is well. Anna :)

Kay said...

Both the photos and the paintings are lovely! Does it always work to wish for a certain bird on your walks?
Kay

Kelly said...

Anna...thank you!

Kay..hahaha! No...I'd wish nonstop for Cerulean Warblers if it always worked that way! :-)

grammie g said...

Hi Kelly..."wonderful" they are so bright and beautiful. who could miss seeing them!! What is annoying is hearing them, and not seeing them :/
Nice photos and painting...like your stories to!!

Montanagirl said...

What a gorgeous bird and what a wonderful story! I'd love to see one of those Scarlet Tanagers! I think several years ago I in fact did - I was sitting in the living room and glanced across the street and there was a bright red bird perched high up - I ran for the binoculars but by the time I got back it was gone...I'd like to think I had seen one of these beauties.

Kelly said...

...thanks, grammie! I hear them a lot more than I see them, especially when the sycamores leaf in...

Mona...I bet you did. They really are electric and stand out. It's funny. I look and look...and then look up and he jumps right out. Their red is so beautiful.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, Love both the photos and the paintings... ALL are GREAT..... The Tanager is a gorgeous bird. Don't think I have seen one here.

Winter came back here today --and we had a fire in the fireplace. Can you believe it on May 15????? Geeeeessssshhhh.

Hugs,
Betsy

NatureFootstep said...

the reddest bird I´ve ever seen I think. And your painings are wonderful. :)

Wanda..... said...

Loved your Sharon Woods Scarlet Tanager story, Kelly. Another familiar place for me. I have yet to see a Scarlet Tanager this year, once in awhile they come to the feeder out back, but mostly I only hear them in the tree tops.

Loved your vibrant paintings!

Out on the prairie said...

Lovely picture, I wish I would see one. I have one area they really like, but are also the sign for the end of morel mushroom season.

Roy said...

Nice shots, Kelly! I've seen them before, but never for long enough or close enough to get a good shot.

BTW, I still get the daily sightings email from the RI birding network, and it seems that there are a couple of Summer Tanagers hanging out in Miantonomi Park, the best Spring migratory spot in Newport.

Janice K said...

Oh! Oh! Oh! Such a beauty. I haven't seen one around here for many years. You make me hope that maybe I will see one again.

It sounds like you have been birding most of your life, Kelly. No wonder you are so knowledgeable and always have some much interesting information to share. I love so much that you are taking the rest of us along on your birding adventures.

Roy said...

A great finish on these Kelly, a very interesting method.

BirdingMaine said...

Excellent post and photos Kelly! Love the paintings.

Appalachian Lady said...

Great photos! This is the first year I haven't seen a scarlet tanager on one of my walks or in your yard. It's just been so rainy I haven't gotten out like I should. Your post though inspires me.

Michael Bartneck said...

Now that bird could almost convert me to birding....naw..but almost! :) very beautiful!

Birding is Fun! said...

Oh wow! Seeing those photos gave me chills. Awesome!

dAwN said...

Kelly~ Great stories! Your paintings are beautiful!

Lona said...

Oh Kelly what beautiful pictures. I would love just to see a Tanager while on my walks or at the feeder period. Although I would likely break my neck running to get to my camera. LOL! Beautiful watercolors too!

Carol Mattingly said...

Fantastic stories Kelly. I haven't seen a scarlet tanager in ages. Beautiful. Carol

freebird said...

Both your photos and your paintings look wonderful. What a bright red bird in that super green spring leafy growth!

mick said...

That's a beautiful bird and I liked the stories of how you found it - especially the one about the "lucky" grandma!

Kah-Wai Lin said...

Nice capture! Beautiful bird!

DeanO said...

Fantastic - thanks for sharing

Andrea said...

I still remember when I saw my First Scarlet Tanager. Your images are wonderful.

RuthieJ said...

Beautiful photos & painting Kelly. I had the first ever Scarlet Tanager visit my deck this past weekend. They certainly are special birds!

John (Tucker) said...

Wow! Brilliant color.

Rebecca said...

Wow! What awesome paintings.. I looked through your last few posts also, what a gift!

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone for the lovely, sweet comments. You make me feel so happy! Ohhhh...I loved seeing that bird. Hopefully I'll get to see him more, but as the leaves grow bigger, who knows!!

...you would have loved being around Grandma B. She had a huge personality and was very fun. I know that Scarlet Tanager was attracted to her energy...she was probably the only person around able to pull down a tanager...

Gunnar Engblom said...

I love Fuzzy, Grunge Impressionism. Beautiful

Kelly said...

...thanks, Gunnar! :-)