The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
I'm not sure I am what you would call a “birder.” I don't officially keep a life list of birds that I have observed and identified. But I have observed and identified birds for most of my life. So it was a pleasant surprise Sunday to see and identify a brand new bird. Sharon and I had just finished watching and listening to our churches online service Sunday morning from the back deck of our house, when I noticed a small blue-gray bird high in the crown of an old white oak. It was half the size of a sparrow. I was watching for warblers, the tiny colorful neo-tropical migrants that pass through this time of year. I thought that is what I had spotted.
I retrieved my binoculars and relocated the bird. By now there were two and they appeared to be building a nest. I was able to identify them pretty easily on my MERLIN phone app, the bird ID app produced by Cornell's Lab of Ornithology. I found the bird and lo and behold it was a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. I had never seen one before, at least not that I am aware of. We often times don't notice things until we learn what they are, or what their names are.
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, according to Cornell, “is the northernmost-occurring species of gnatcatcher, and the only truly migratory one. Most members of its genus are resident in Central and South America.” It was interesting that, “In spite of their name, gnats do not form a significant part of the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher's diet.” A pair of these birds can build up to seven nests in a breeding season. They often re-use nest material from previous nests, which speeds re-nesting. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers eat small insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. The wings are torn off larger prey and their bodies beaten on a perch prior to being eaten.
So take a second look if you see a tiny blue-gray bird darting around in your treetop. It may be something you have not seen before.