American Redstarts

These members of the warbler family inhabit second growth forests where there are plenty of saplings. They have a habit of swiftly flapping their wings to flush out insects from the undergrowth. The male is black with bright orange-red patches on wings and tail. The female is also pretty with bright yellow patches. They winter to the Gulf coast in the US.
Just as my hydrangea hedge was coming to full bloom - the same hydrangeas which attract all the bees, wasps and butterflies - I began to notice at times a strange rustling within the branches. I watched as the blossoms and leaves shook violently and then noticed it was a small bird. By the time I'd get my binoculars for a better look, the bird would have flown away. Sometimes, I'd see it hovering and flitting butterfly-like near the blossoms, but I could never tell what bird it was.
Then, one day, as I was at my easel, a bird landed on the air conditioner unit right outside my window. "Oh" I breathed, "What are you? Stay still, don't move!" as I lunged for my camera. It had an olive head and back with bright yellow patches on its wings and tail, a very pretty little thing. When I finally identified it as a female American Redstart, everything made sense. That must have been the bird I saw beating its wings in the hydrangea to flush out insects. Since then, I've seen the male as well. It's amazing how many different birds you can see if you start to pay attention!

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