For the Birds: The colors you’ll see

Photo by Chris Bosak An indigo bunting perches in a tree in New England, July 2021.

I’m not going to try to emulate Dr. Seuss, but I think he would have drawn plenty of inspiration from a walk in the woods in New England in May.

His classic “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” comes to mind, but only altered to “Oh, the Colors You Can See.”

A recent walk made me think of this. The majority of the walk was along a wide dirt path with shrubby habitat on both sides. Beyond the thickets on one side was a large field and beyond the thickets on the other side were deep woods. It is perfect habitat for a bird walk.

The first bird I saw was a male eastern towhee. It was once called rufous-sided towhee because of the unique dark orange color of its sides that complement the otherwise white and black plumage of the bird. The bird’s red eyes are visible when it approaches among the shrubs closely enough. I did not see a female towhee on this particular day, but they are lighter brownish-orange where the male is black.

A little later in the walk, I heard a loud whistle from the top of a tree. I knew from the clearness of this song and the height at which it was sung that it was a Baltimore oriole. Despite their relatively large size and electric orange plumage, they are often difficult to find because they are hidden among the leaves. This particular bird, thankfully, perched at the top of a dead tree and was clearly visible from a far distance. I used my binoculars to get a better view but the bright orange bird stood out just fine without them.

It is always a thrill to see a rose-breasted grosbeak. It is even more spectacular when two males are fighting over the territory and chasing each other around. Often, one of the birds would land within a few yards of where I stood, giving me a front-row view of the namesake rose-colored triangle on its breast.

At almost the same time, I saw my first indigo bunting of the walk. Its brilliant blue shined beautifully in the early evening light. I saw a few more buntings as my walk continued.

I heard two familiar songs frequently in the brush and knew I would eventually see both of these birds. The first one I found was a blue-winged warbler, which despite its name, is mostly bright yellow. Next, I found a few male yellow warblers, which as their name suggests, are mostly yellow with a few rusty streaks on their chest and belly.

As I made my way towards the field I could hear the bubbly sounds of many bobolinks. Entering the field, I saw many of the beautiful birds rise from the tall grasses, fly to a nearby perch in the field to sing and return to the grass from where they started. Male bobolinks are black, white and have a large yellow patch on the back of their head.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the few red-winged blackbirds that I saw in the field as well. My oldest son used to call them firebirds because of the red and yellow patches on the male’s wings.

Yes, Dr. Seuss would have had a field day, no pun intended. Any walk during any season is a blessing but to see orange, red, yellow and blue birds along the way is nothing short of magical.

A male scarlet tanager perches in a maple tree during spring migration 2017, in Danbury, Conn.
A male scarlet tanager perches in a maple tree during spring migration 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

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