Photographing Scarlet Tanagers Eating Insects

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I had such a great weekend at Fort De Soto with the migrant birds not too long ago, and one of the best parts was photographing the Scarlet Tanagers.  The bright red feathers and black wings of the males are very striking.  At the East Beach, I found about ten tanagers that were feeding near the entrance to the Privet Trail.  They didn’t seem to mind all the crowds and picnics that were going on.  They’d fly right up to me as they dove after insects.

When I came across these images on my computer, I had to laugh.  The sequence was just too good to not share on the blog.  You see, bird photography isn’t as easy as the final images may make it look.  For every ten pictures that I take, I keep maybe one.  You may see why…

Here the Scarlet Tanager spots a mosquito flying by him.  Good, he can eat it before it comes to sting me!

Scarlet Tanager Spots a Mosquito
Scarlet Tanager Spots a Mosquito

So next he flies at the mosquito.  Of course I can’t move the camera and auto-focus as fast as he flies, so the shot is blurry and I clipped the wings.  If only the birds would give me a five-second warning!  A detailed flight plan would also be helpful.  What, am I too demanding?

Attack on the Mosquito!
Attack on the Mosquito!

Yep, he caught the mosquito, but all I got was a pleasing blur! :)

Where's the Bird?
Where’s the Bird?

Then he landed on the ground right in front of me.  I literally had to back up in order to focus, he was that close!  He stood there with his bug for a second or two, giving me a chance to regain focus as he chewed his bug.  He even gave me a few good head angles!  So I got the shot.  Then I added a set of extension tubes to my bag for my return visit… :)

Scarlet Tanager Chewing his Bug
Scarlet Tanager Chewing his Bug

Want to learn more about nature photography at Fort De Soto?

Check out my Fort De Soto page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

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One thought on “Photographing Scarlet Tanagers Eating Insects

  1. Demanding? Hardly! They least they can do is cooperate. Forget the fact that they just flew 18 hours non-stop over water. You had to drive 2 hours from Orlando!!! These migrants need to get with the program. However, it is cool that you got him with the skeeter in the beak. Nicely done!

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