Friday, May 22, 2020

Western Tanager

I am enjoying using BirdNet, an app that identifies bird calls that you record on your cell phone. So long has you have a strong Internet signal, you get a quick response, often giving you a species name, occasionally a list of two or three ranked possibilities. BirdNet’s first suggestion is usually correct. Reminiscent of Marvin, the depressed android in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the app notes how likely its identifications are correct. A wide range of self deprecations seem to exist, ranging from “highly unlikely” to “almost certain.”

On 19 May 2020, Erika and I heard an unfamiliar bird song from the forest along a logging road in Kennedy Flats in Mason County just west of Olympia. BirdNet announced that the bird was a Western Tanager, but considered this conclusion to be unlikely. A short distance up the road, we found three Western Tanagers, two males and a female, that flew up and began circling us. The male in these images, perhaps defending a territory, repeatedly landed on a tall, dead, small tree. Apparently this tree was also claimed by a male Anna’s Hummingbird, which persistently dove at the tanager, chasing it to the edge of the woods. I will share a photo of the hummingbird in tomorrow’s post.

Although these tanagers are common in western North America, these are the best images I have ever taken of the species. The amount of red on Western Tanagers’ heads varies among individuals. I look forward to finding a male with a completely red head. Finally, I should mention that the Western Tanager song sounds similar gutteral American Robin. BirdNet is a good way to learn bird calls.

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