My favourite bird from where I used to call home in British Columbia was the bushtit. I love everything about bushtits. Their adorable little chirps, their flappy wings, their fluffy little bodies, and the way they would swarm my suet feeders every late afternoon. When I moved to the eastern United States, I missed them terribly.
In B.C, bushtits tend to stick around for the whole year. I lived in a particularly mild climate, about 45 minutes away from Vancouver, so I saw them pretty much daily. I just love the cute little birds that jump around the trees.
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is the closest thing I've found to a bushtit since moving to Pennsylvania, and I instantly adored them. The first time I saw one was unexpectedly at my feeder. It was gone in a few seconds, and I never got a photograph. This was last year.
This year, I made the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher a priority on my To-Do list of bird photography. I found them while walking around No. 8 Reservoir one day, which is in Kelayres. It's within walking distance, and I like to go there when it's nice and quiet AKA before all the kids with their ATVs and dirtbikes show up.
They were hopping around in the uppermost part of the trees - the canopy - just a little ways away from the water. There were tons of them. Unfortunately, my longest lens is only 300mm, since I was disabled when I got hooked on birding, and the best lenses cost the most money. I couldn't get any photographs other than soft focused ones that I had to zoom far far in just to ID the birds. The long black and white tail feathers is what gave them away in the terrible pictures I took. I instantly fell in love with them. They reminded me so much of my beloved bushtits from back home that I made it a goal to photograph them this summer before they left to go south in the fall.
Unlike bushtits, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are migratory. They spend winters in central America, or stay in central America all year-round. They prey on small insects and spiders mainly, and can be found in broadleaf forests.
A few days ago, we went to Mauch Chunk Lake Park in Carbon County, PA to check it out. We had never gone birding there before, and it was a beautiful day. The first thing I saw when we got there was a Cooper's Hawk being chased by a crow.
Across the street from the parking lot was a small park, and I could hear the small, buzzy chirps of the gnatcatchers there. I instantly went over to investigate.
To my surprise, the trees were not only filled with gnatcatchers, but there were a lot of recently fledged ones learning how to catch bugs on their own. A couple birds would sit, flap their wings, and open their mouths hoping for their parents to feed them. They were completely on their own though, and had to catch their own food, which many of them did very successfully.
The young gnatcatchers were everywhere, and even came down to the lower branches, and even into a nearby shrubbery allowing me to take beautiful photos of them. It was so wonderful. I was as happy as a birder could be, and their movements reminded me so much of my beloved bushtits.
Many of them came close to me where I was standing. I stood still, and very quiet, and soon we were surrounded by them. I, of course, squealed over how adorable they were once I realized that they weren't really afraid of us or the camera.
I included some photos here in the blog. Photos of the other birds I took that day are in the photo gallery on the "Birds" page here. I encourage you to look at them. Besides the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, there were also Gray Catbirds, goldfinches, veery, red-winged blackbirds, a scarlet tanager, ruby-throated hummingbirds, cedar waxwings, northern rough-winged swallows, yellow warblers, and many more. I hope to go back to Mauch Chunk Lake this weekend. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the beauty of the park. I only got to explore a tiny bit, because we went in the early evening and I spent so much time on the gnatcatchers. I can't help it. They are my new beloved.