A ray of sunshine

It’s a been a summer filled with smoky skies and when the sun was out it seemed dulled and lacking that cheery-summery feeling. However, even when skies were hazy and the sunlight dimmed, there were always male Western Tanagers to illuminate the haze filled skies .

With a brood to feed this male was busy collecting mouthfuls of flying ants to bring to the nest. We watched him make several trips to an ant nest a black bear had recently exposed behind a pile of rocks.

Like an atomic fireball they filled the summer skies with an yellower-yellow and orange-orange. Even when we could only hear their “Chib-it” sounds from the treetops above we knew the sun was in the sky.

And when the ants had retreated into their nest wasp was on the menu.

We are not sure how much longer you will be around but based upon previous years it will only be a week or two but one thing is certain. You have provided us with a ray of bright crisp sunshine this summer and we can’t thank you enough.

Atomic Fireball: aka Flame


We hear the Western Tanagers calling every morning and evening from late May until early August and despite the brilliant colors of the males good looks are few and far between as they move quickly in the upper story of the conifers nearby.

The brilliant red color of the Males is unique.

“While most red birds owe their redness to a variety of plant pigments known as carotenoids, the Western Tanager gets its scarlet head feathers from a rare pigment called rhodoxanthin. Unable to make this substance in their own bodies, Western Tanagers probably obtain it from insects in their diet.”1

This day we got a nice look at this male, which we have fondly dubbed flame, perched in the midlevel of the trees.  What a beautiful bird.