How I managed to go all summer without seeing a summer tanager at Bond Park, I don’t know. But that changed yesterday with a late afternoon walk. It was about dusk near the amphitheatre in the interior part of those woods. As I forged up the pine-needle path, listening to the chi calls of a red-bellied woodpecker, the sounds of pikituk found my ear. Stopping, I looked straight up, but saw nothing. There was an actor in the woods with a script learning lines for a play. He saw me with my binoculars and could tell that I was enthusiastically seeking this bird. He told me he’d just seen an owl (barred probably), and showed me the direction it flew. I thanked him but kept looking for the tanager. Then, there it was, mid-story on a pine branch. Pikituk, tikituk….in the graying light….and off it flew.
On a day when I had already encountered 2 summer tanagers (at Kitt Creek in RTP), having beheld the glowing red feathers of one of them nestled in the sun-washed tops of a blushing sweet gum, I am aware that the tanagers I’m seeing now are on the move. They are travelers with a long journey ahead. Their winter home is in the southern hemisphere. Our only all-red bird, I’m grateful for the sighting and thrilled to hear the pikituk call signaling its presence.