Yellow Firecracker

In the last post it was mentioned I was considering a cosmic shift in approach to Intrigued posts – in particular the wildlife side.  Up to this point,  I’ve tried to focus on a sequential path slowly moving from early outings to the more recent.  That was working fine until the backlog started trending from weeks to days to months then years.  Foreseeable for sure – we take a lot of trips and my shutter finger can match strokes with a Hummer’s wing.  Here’s what I am thinking.  Focus on the newer stuff for Sat-Tue posts and feature the older series from Wed-Friday.  Maybe Flashback Fridays, Throwback Thursdays and WTF Bri, how about a bird at least from this decade Wednesdays (bit long, but you get my drift).  As a test drive I have a bird to feature from just under 5 years ago, so Throwback Thursday it is!

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

We took a quick trip down to Rend Lake back in July 2016.  Decided to enjoy the fireworks from a different location that year and their motto was “Where the Fun Begins!” (yes, complete with exclamation mark).  A mere 4 hours away from the start of all joy with an exclamation mark… pack up the RV.  Birding opportunities seemed good as the lake is only an hour or so from Shawnee National Forest.  Escape, relaxation, fireworks and birds – all words I like to see on a trip agenda.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

Hit the jump to see more shots of our winged firecracker.

If I remember correctly, we found a great place to watch the fireworks in a lakeside park.  Actually, the real fireworks ended up being the day before.  While walking along the trails near the dam rollers, a huge racket rang out from the tree canopy.  First thought was a couple of Catbirds having a riff off.  Sharp whistles, followed by Wren rattles, throw in some Crow squawks and then the mews which eventually give the imposter Catbird away.  Problem was I couldn’t find any medium sized grey birds.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

All I could really see was a tree full of leaves that would rustle from time to time as the source of the sound flitted from branch to branch.  Back up, move forward, dance to the left, shuffle to the right, stand on one foot, hop, crawl and perform the complete collection from The Ministry of Silly Walks – eventually managed to glimpse flashes of yellow.  Seeing it and getting focus was entirely two different things.  Arms were starting to feel like spaghetti as the tin filled up with shot after shot of blurry leaves.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

Linda eventually headed back to the RV to check on the boys apparently tired of laughing at my frustrations to tin the source of the unusual song.  I am relentless to a fault which is probably why distance running is my second love..  wait, birds, no, no, wife.. then birds.. then running..ugh, wife, then the boys, then birds, then running – hell, in my top 10 for sure.  Continued to follow the intriguing song as it explored the tops of the nearby trees.  Clearly not batting Catbirds and likely a bird I had not encountered to date.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

Then the yellow firecracker exploded out of the dense leaves and landed on an exposed branch.  Took a few shots from distance to make sure something came home before slowly deploying foot zoom to see what else I could get.  Although mixed in this layout, you can tell which ones benefited from the reduce distance.  Now that is a beautiful bird – Rend Lake had lived up to its exclamation point.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

My revised ID of a Great Crested Flycatcher was dismissed after taking a quick exposure check – too much yellow and definitely more saturated than the Great Crested – it wasn’t until back at the RV with the reference books did it become apparent it was a Yellow-Breasted Chat – new for the bird list for sure.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

Amazing that a bird this beautiful and fairly accessible, had eluded me that long (as it breeds just about everywhere in the US).  It is a shame Linda headed back early as this specimen definitely met her “I only shoot pretty  birds” rule (seriously, she refused to take a picture of any boring bird).

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

Cornell did point out that for a widespread bird they can be difficult to find, recommending you keep your ears open for their multitude of songs.  Thanks for some relief to the damaged ego.  Although a good fit with the rest of the colorful new world Warblers, the Yellow-Breasted Chat stands above as the largest and most variance between its songs.  Outside of breeding season, these Chats pull back on the singing and stealthily spend their time looking for insects in the deep foliage.  Probably befriending Catbirds in the area to cover their tracks even more.

Yellow-Breasted Chat found at Rend lake, IL in July 2016

I’ll leave you with a parting shot that gives an additional perspective giving a better view of the yellow to white transition that happens lower on the breast.  Also shows the highlight pin-striping on the wings.

Hope you enjoyed shots of our largest Warbler.  We get to fill our tins with some of the most beautiful birds in North/Central America thanks to our Texas trips – the Yellow-Breasted Chat can clearly hold their own.  Take care everyone and best wishes to our friends in southern Texas pushing through the cold – let’s hope the Sea Turtles make it out all right.




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