Early one bright blue morning, I drove deep into a gap of Shade Mountain to a two-acre clearing maintained for wildlife. White puffy clouds floated along, pushed by the breeze. It was the last week of June, and I was going to slip in a little birding.
As I stepped from the vehicle before sunrise, I was surrounded by bird songs. Ovenbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, and Wood Thrushes sang their dawn chorus.
Hiking uphill, I heard a Least Flycatcher’s “Che-bek” from a nearby clear-cut. Then a fast trill got my attention from only a few yards away. I stopped, looking for movement. A small brown bird appeared on an exposed limb, giving me a great look at a Worm-eating Warbler. A harsh, angry chip erupted from a low bush beside the trail, and an Ovenbird hopped back and forth on a limb, his crest raised in alarm, not at all pleased to see me in his territory!
At the top, I climbed into a blind overlooking the clearing. From here I saw Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Bluebirds hunting worms and bugs in the short clover.
A small copse of trees about 40 yards/meters away was alive with birds, including three male Scarlet Tanagers. As I admired their brilliant plumages, something got my attention only a few yards from where I sat. Another male Scarlet Tanager was feeding on insects from the underside of gum leaves. Seconds later a second and third bright red tanager joined the feeding frenzy. At first I thought perhaps these were the same birds I had seen earlier, but when I swung my binoculars back to where I had first seen them, they were still there! Now I had six of these eye-popping birds in sight at once, plus several females and young ones.
I also saw Blackburnian Warblers, Black and White Warblers, American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Acadian Flycatcher, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Wild Turkey, Yellow- throated Vireo, and more.
By mid-morning, rising temperatures and humidity quieted the birds considerably, and it was time to go. But the early start to a gorgeous morning had been worth the trip.