A few weeks ago, after I mentioned my ambition to see a scarlet tanager, a reader suggested St. Croix State Park might be a good place to look.
I got some specific suggestions from a couple of people in the Minnesota birding community, including a valuable bit of advice: You’re likely to hear scarlet tanagers before you see them. I listened to the song on a CD and decided I’d never be able to pick it out. They probably aren’t singing at this time of the year anyway. The call was more promising. It goes CHIK-brrrr, with the CHIK much higher-pitched than the brrrr. Sometimes, on the recording, there were several CHIKS, but the brrrr always came.
Armed with this information and the suggestions about where to look, I journeyed to St. Croix State Park — it’s 15 miles east of Hinckley — for a brief camping trip this week.
I struck out. I walked and drove in the woods. I heard lots of "CHIKs" but no "brrrrs." I saw no flashes of scarlet, nor did I see flashes of yellow from any females.
It wasn’t a total loss on the bird front. Patrolling my campsite, snatching insects from midair, was — I think, probably, most likely — an eastern wood pewee. It behaved in the way the bird book said it should behave, perched relatively high on a tree, darting out quickly and returning just as quickly to the same perch, or almost the same perch. In any event, it was definitely an insect-eater, and I was happy to share my campsite with it. I could have used five or six more.
I had to take a picture of something while I was on my trip, so I took a picture of this flower, taken along a ski trail somewhere in the park. Can anyone tell me what it is?
I’ve gotten a couple of additional suggestions about where to find scarlet tanagers since I returned, and one is much closer to home.
So I’m going to make at least one more effort this summer. But I’m going to have to hurry. Scarlet tanagers spend their winters in Central and South America, and they are among the earliest birds to head south.
This proves that these birds are not only beautiful, they’re also intelligent.
Botanists! Biologists! Naturalists! Fellow wannabes! Your pictures and stories welcome here: firstname.lastname@example.org.