The scene is my backyard. Troutbirder lives in Bluff country i.e. the karst region of southeastern Minnesota.
We had our first rain of the spring last night. The morning was foggy, damp, windy and 40 degrees. Naturally, I had figured conditions were perfect for my first trout fishing outing, as the season had opened on Saturday. After breakfast I gathered my stuff together and was explaining my destinations to Mrs. T. It was right then, that looking out the living room window, I noticed a bright yellow mustardy bird in the oak tree. Not having a clue what it was, I ran and got my binocs. By the time I returned the bird had alighted on one of my platform feeders.
I did pick out a somewhat russet red tail. It's some kind of a thrush, I thought. It wasn't in the Peterson nor my Golden Field Guides. Actually, I couldn't find anything that remotely looked right! I looked at it some more. Maybe a indistinct eye ring? An elevated crest towards the back of the head? You can see I don't know all the technical jargon. It was time to call my birding mentor Mr. Science (Gary).
"It's robin size sort of fluffed up. Maybe an eye ring and a crest. Definitely mostly mustard yellow with a reddish tail. A strong looking beak "
"Did you check the flycatchers &/or phoebes?" he asked.
"I went thru my field guides twice," I noted.
"I'll be right over."
I grabbed my wife's camera and took a few shots before the bird took off. They were mostly blurred as apparently taking pictures through a screen is not a good technique. I was sure that by the time Gary arrived it would be too late and my pictures were basically yellow globs. Then the bird returned. "I've never seen this bird before," said the retired teacher who has been birding since high school.
"Me either," I nodded profoundly. Then he announced he had to go pick up his granddaughter but would "call John."
In the meantime, Mrs T (a non birder) had been perusing a book I had recently purchased on special at Sam's Club for $30. It was a table book, titled: The American Museum of Natural History Birds of North America. She had been observing this whole operation all morning. Casually handing me the heavy open book she sweetly asked while pointing, "Is this it?"
"Yup exactly!!!!" Ta Da!
John Hockema is one of Minnesotas top birders. He is in the top listing group for Minnesota at 377 sightings. Here in Fillmore County he tops the list with 236/272. Pretty impressive. He arrived about two o'clock with his brother. I showed them the basement window for now the bird was on the ground. "Wow. Unbelievable. It's way too early anyway. This might be a first. I will call a friend of mine. He has written the book on southeastern Minnesota birding and keeps records of everything," said John.
The call was made. It turns out that the bird had been identified in Forestville State Park in 1986. This apparently was the first sighting since.
Ladies and gentlemen may I present to you a female summer tanager. I hope you had an easier time figuring this all out than I did..... but it sure was fun.