In my garden, red-n-black doesn’t lack–in bird colors. It’s that time of year, when the colorful migratory birds wing through Texas and (lucky me!) some visit my garden.

In early April, I always see one or more Summer Tanagers, Piranga rubra, who show up to snack on honeybees and native bees. These scarlet hunters are adept at catching the bees on the wing as both birds and bees flit through the garden.

If you look closely at this striking adult male, you’ll see something in his beak–it’s a honeybee.

In this shot, you can see the wings of the bee meal, the red menace in the process of whacking the hapless bee against the branch, effectively killing the bee and making it easier for the tanager to remove the stinger. That’s probably a good idea, considering that the bird is going to have the bee in its beak and down its gullet.

The snack is ready for the eating! I was able to capture these shots because my poor Red oak trees are late in leafing out after the snow/ice storm in February and is lacking in leafy lushness.

In a more colorful photo, the gorgeous guy perches in the freeze damaged, but partially foliaged, Mountain Laurel.

No meal is complete without a complementary aperitif, and what better drink to go with honeybee meal than pond water?

Or, perhaps it was just time to take a bath!

The brief April visits from this species is typically in the form of adult females and juvenile males, who are just as beautiful as this year’s male: golden feathers for the female and splotchy red and yellow for the youngster. Mr. Male was only here for a matter of minutes; I hope more of these tanager treats show up in my garden.

Another annual spring migratory visitor are Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus. I have a tough time catching these stunning birds as they’re quick with their seed and peanut eating, plus they fly off at the slightest movement. I was lucky to snap a photo of this handsome chap as he enjoyed a sip at the bar.

The male Red-winged Blackbird is a velvety, deep black, with underwing highlights of deep red and rich yellow. Their underwing colors are more visible when the bird is in flight, but significantly more challenging to photograph. But I’m content with this capture of his profile of midnight black, with bits of cheery color, and bright eye to complete the bird package.

Bird stories, garden stories–get your fill by popping over to Anna at Wednesday Vignette. Happy reading!

Bed of Curls

Here at My Gardener Says…  it’s anole week.  In addition to squabbling anoles, another green reptilian gnome sits pretty in a fluff of Blue curls,  Phacelia congesta.

Comfy and sweet in its chosen bed of blooms, this roving reptile isn’t just chilling.  Lying in wait for pollinators, it snatched a couple of tiny native bees and another winged-thing as I watched, though was deferential as a honeybee buzzed by its head.   I snickered too much to catch a photo of that.

Perched just above the green hunter’s snout is the aforementioned winged thing–maybe a mosquito?  The anole turned its head deliberately and in lightening-fast movement, converted the insect to a snack.

Anoles are garden predators and will eat anything smaller than themselves–except for honeybees, I guess.  Maybe the green goblin can learn something about honeybee consumption from this female Summer TanagerPiranga rubra.  

Typically, Summer Tanagers catch bees on the wing.  This time of year,  every year, they visit my garden and a few bees become meals for the birds.  In a light rain, she hung out next to the hives, gobbling the bees crawling on the ground.

Yummy honeybee.

Watch out for that stinger!

Bee Hunters Are Back

Bee hunting season is open!

Grrr.  I’m not happy about my honeybees ending up in this bird’s tummy,

…but she and her offspring(?) or BFF, are fun to watch as they hunt for  buzzy meals and sip from the baths.

Summer Tanagers,  Piranga rubra, have returned to my garden in search of honeybees for their main course and  wasps and native bees à la carte, since those insects are also on the Tanager menu.  I wrote about the visits from  a male, female, and immature male Summer Tanager last May. That crew hung around snatching bees for a couple of weeks.  I didn’t spot any Tanager action during the summer months, though they breed in this area. However, this past weekend I saw two females bee-hunting in my back garden.  I imagine the two golden beauties are fueling up for their migration to Mexico and South America.

I observed as one of them flew to the landing board of my beehive Scar, plucked a bee from its hive, then rested on a branch of the overhanging Shumard Oak.  She proceeded to bang the bee on the branch, quickly dispensing it down her gullet when it was sufficiently dead and stinger-less. Another time, one perched on a different branch of the same tree looking rapidly this way and that, as bees buzzed past her on their foraging way.  So many bees, so little time!  The bees were completely oblivious of the danger posed by the observant, seasoned, and accurate bee hunter. I’m bummed that the Tanagers eat my bee girls and would certainly be glad to offer them a peanut butter and honey sandwich instead, but I don’t think that would go over too well.

This one hopped along a pathway, looking for…I’m not sure what.  Bees crawling on the ground?  Maybe she was eyeballing the big, weird critter in front of her on the pathway, perched on the pink chair–the one with the black eye in front of her face.

Okay, maybe that critter isn’t a concern, after all. On to hunting bees!

Bee killer.

Tank  up, Tanagers.  You have a long flight ahead of you.