Summer Tanager Art

Summer Tanager Photo Summer Tanager Painting

Last April I had some interesting birds appear outside the window of my home office. A large Leatherleaf Mahonia shrub grows just outside the window, and a variety of birds showed up to eat the prolific berries. Mockingbirds were the most common, and they would grab berries and swallow them whole. Catbirds and cardinals would grab them and fly off to eat them. A black, white, and red bird appeared twice for a snack. I got poor photos of it, but good enough to tell it was a rose-breasted grosbeak. After the grosbeak, another unusual visitor showed up. This bird was a dirty yellow with a beige beak. It returned frequently and I was able to get some good photos using only a 100mm lens. I thought it was a tanager, but I had to show it to some more birders before our friends Baird and Ed decided it was a female summer tanager. She ate the berries differently; she would grab one and squash it with her beak, then somehow work the soft part of the berry out without eating the skin. She visited the Mahonia every day for about 10 days, and then was gone for good. Perhaps it was an extended rest on her migration north.

I posted my best shot of the tanager in my online photo album, but I never bothered to link to it from anywhere. Through the magic of search engines, an artist looking for wildflower images happened upon it. She liked it so much that she asked to be able to paint it, and I agreed. Just recently she sent me a scan of the finished product. I’m impressed. It’s an honor to have someone think highly enough of your work to want to create something new from it. Here they are; the photo and the painting, side-by-side. Camille Engel does beautiful work…stop by her website!