Stéphane’s Blog for May 10, 2011


What a contrast a day makes: today was overcast, gray, and cold! A light East wind, if not rain, promised very little bird activity (at least at tree level). That’s just the way it is at Cabot Head: East wind is a curse.

There were, however, some movements of birds flying high, high against the wind. In a strange mix-up, American Robins and Yellow-rumped Warblers were seen in substantial numbers, when they usually peak more in late April or very early May! At the same time, species typical of mid-May were detected, like the first Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

It was a good day for new species: a Rock Pigeon was seen (yes, they count!); a White-crowned Sparrow was finally detected; a Red-bellied Woodpecker, an infrequent species at Cabot Head, was briefly seen; an adult Great Black-backed Gull shared for some time a rock with Ring-billed Gulls.

But, definitively, the biggest surprise of the day was… a Summer Tanager! (hence the title) It was caught in our nets, an adult female, sporting a huge, unhooked beak, and a yellowish plumage mixed with some red feathers. We dutifully put a band on her, the first Summer Tanager ever in spring at Cabot Head. It has been banded in the fall previously (at least one individual). She was seen a few times afterwards, notably in the afternoon, when she was trying to catch the spiders hanging at the windows. Unfortunately for her, the spiders were inside the house! She must have been dying for big bugs in this cold day, far from her usual haunts in Kentucky (or anywhere in the southern States).