The Little Mockingbird

How about we go for six bird posts in a row – six consecutive days in row actually wait wait .. let’s clarify that a bit more – six consecutive new birds on the Birding Life List in a row!  Yes, that sounds a lot better.  The disheartening thing about that is this happens to be the exact number my brother was able to get in the tin when he came down to my neck of the woods (for someone that lives in Chicago, this must feel like the deep South hehehe) for a little birding action a few weeks ago.  I did manage to plus one that weekend thanks to a surprising find at a Burger King but stay tuned for that story.  Today’s featured post ended up taking some work to get in the tin.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

Along with several of the previous posts, this score occurred while birding with Ron at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.  We had two encounters this this particular variety.  The first came near the main entrance just East of the visitor center.  We noticed an interesting bird cross in front of us on our way to the large parking lot in that direction (Linda had just arrived and we were heading over there to see her).  Eventually it made its way over to a large evergreen next to the red brick wall.  For the next 15-20 minutes we tried everything we could to get a clear shot of it.  Based on the seeing the results of that initial sighting come through the digital darkroom I can safely say that was pretty much an epic failure.  There was enough there to take credit for the check mark, but nothing I’d really want to show if I didn’t have to.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this bird .. oh, and learn what it is!

The good news is we encountered this bird again while on the outer loop trail that follows the Sangamon Creek.  If I’m not mistaken, this was right after the White-Throated Sparrow sightings we had on that same trail (link here).  This time the conditions were much more favorable – a little darker thanks to the tree canopy, but at least we see the bird a bit better.  Problem is they are HYPER!  Trying to get the Beast in position long enough to take a shot was as serious struggle.  Luckily, a few of them came out pretty nice.  I think Ron was able to identify this bird in the field on his phone app – also the reason I was soooo ticked I didn’t get in the tin the first time since it was clearly a new bird.

So, this particular bird is a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  The following shot is probably my favorite of the lot due to the funny expression – “You looking at me punk?”

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

As you can tell, they are pretty distinctive with that white eye ring.  The rest of the body is well.. as you might have guessed blue and gray.  Let’s see what interesting facts we can dig up about this little bird.  Appears they have a tendency to learn snippets of song from other birds in the area.  This copycat ability has earned it the nickname of Little Mockingbird.  I wonder if it can give the Catbird a run for its money.  Get those two chatting it up with each and you’re likely to go insane.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

They are one of the few migrating Gnatcatchers spending most of their time in Central America before heading up into the Easter half of the US (also looks like they go a little bit into the Baja and surrounding areas although not as far North as in the East). Here’s an odd one – gnats don’t actually make up the primary component of their food.  Looks like they are determined eaters either eating their small prey alive or ripping the wings off the larger prey and beating their bodies against the perch before gobbling them up.  Lastly, they are very territorial chasing off rivals with vocal and posture displays.  If they are met with resistance after that they resort to midair confrontations – breast to breast while climbing steeply snapping at each other until the other backs down.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

This is the biggest surprise of all seeing as I was with Ron at the time and didn’t see any of this aggression – most birds hate Ron and if Swallows and Terns are apt to attack him then you would think a ornery bird like this would be harassing the hell of him.

That’s all I have for you tonight folks – need to get some rest.  This morning’s early run in the sticky humidity took a lot of me – time to go relax!

 

2 thoughts on “The Little Mockingbird”

  1. Egads, that bird could have eaten me alive!! After beating me against a tree!!

    These are outstanding photos, much better than mine and much better than my better pictures of this bird at Deer Grove Forest Preserve in Palatine. I don’t think you mentioned how noisy these things really are! As you say, they are small and flighty, making it very hard to photograph.

    I did ID it on my phone app after we took our original, horrible pics. The color, white eye-ring and black “get away from me” eyebrow were pretty indicative.

    So, 6 new birds in 6 posts in 6 days?? That’s 666, buddy, better watch out!

    Ron

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  2. Oh yeah, it was the rampant noise making that really drew us to it. I was surprised I actually got decent shots seeing as how bad that first encounter was. We lucked out having that second encounter on that back trail – admittedly, I took a ton of shots that second time primarily to compensate for the earlier screw up. Most of them only have a partial body part in the frame thanks to your comment on how sugar infused they are.

    Well, as a Cardinal fan (which by the way is a BIRD) 6 is a magical number so I’m triple special in contrast to Mr. Half Empty but Fully Competitive.

    Thanks for all the comments!

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