Check Out the Tail on that One

Hope all is going well in your neck of the woods! Not much happening here as we are still in lockdown. Thought there was a glimmer of hope someone would prime the economic pump, but for now everything is still on hold. Fortunate for me I could do my job at the bottom of a volcano as long as there was Internet connectivity – who knew 35 years ago I’d be heading off to college to prepare for an occupation that was pandemic resistant. When you work with coworkers all over the world on any given day (and night), sitting in your den 40 minutes from your corporate office doesn’t feel that much different. Now, there is ONE big advantage, I can look out my windows into our now snow covered woods and take a break from all the key pounding.

Swainson's Thrush found at Starved Rock State Park, IL May 2015

Hit the jump to see more grainy assed shots of this brush bird.

Then, when the day’s work is wrapped up I can switch over to my other keyboard and start pounding the keys for the blog. For the record, I cannot thank my mother enough for forcing me to take a high school typing class as soon as she found out I was interested in those “computy thingies”. Ah the memories of a classroom full of clicking from the IBM Selectric Typewriters trying to produce a line of “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” without an error. Of course this was slightly harder with a class full of comedians that would wait until you looked away and then raise the tab on top of the element ball causing it to leap out of the machine and hit the floor on the next shift press – most of the letters on our papers looked more like granite chiseling that actual fonts as a result. Does the coronavirus make you forget what you were doing.. if so, I might need to go check my temperature… one sec. Okay, temps normal and I remembered what I was doing – writing a post.. on a new bird. I will admit the spots on our specimen reminded me of the smashed ‘e’s on our old typewriters except in brown and not black ink.

Swainson's Thrush found at Starved Rock State Park, IL May 2015

It was these spots that first got me excited when we saw this bird land in a nearby thicket. Ron and I were out birding Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, Illinois. Back in May of 2015 when this shot was taken, this park was still a great place to bird. There is a large stair and deck system that lets you get above the tree canopy for easy access to the high ranging birds and then a few minutes later be down on the wood’s floor taking aim at Thrushes darting among the branches. Outside of the current pandemic season, this park is now overrun with people pouring out of Chicago. Word has it they are going to start limiting the people that can visit in a day – that’s when I tap out and find another place. Even if you get in, the mass of people and noise push all the good birds too deep to get decent shots. Even back in 2015 it was hard enough to get a bird to come out into the open. This Thrush flew by, landed on the branch, flashed me its spots and fled. About a minute in total to get an unobstructed angle and push the ISO to the moon to get something in the tin. No idea if Ron managed to get it dialed in, but there were two shots (above) that you could at least distinguish it belonged to the bird family and just enough features to narrow it down to three possible species – the Hermit, the Swainson’s or the Wood. All have spots, all are present at one time or another in IL. I was able to throw the Wood out of contention as that species spends too much time in the snack aisle. They also have a white belly with very crisp spots compared to the smudgy ones on a more buff colored canvas.

Swainson's Thrush found at Starved Rock State Park, IL May 2015

That left me with two. Wow, are those two hard to distinguish. Both are smudgy with their spotting, both have similar statures, both have eyerings and their overall coloring is pretty close – at least from the front. The Hermit has an eyering whiter than the supposed buff version of the Swainson’s. My grained pictures were not going to pin that difference down. Luckily, I had one shot of the back – crappy as it is, it revealed the difference. The Hermit has a cinnamon colored tail that contrasts with the more basic brown/olive adorning the rest of the back and wings. My specimen .. if you squint real hard, you will notice that there is very little contrast between the tail and the wings/back. Yes folks, we indeed have a Swainson’s which represents a +1 on the bird list! Just in time as Ron managed to claw back my gain by scoring a Great Horned Owl last weekend. There was a reason for the extra filler at the top of this post – to cover for the fact that the interesting fact for this bird is embarrassing at best. Apparently they hold a Pitch Perfect riff-off to settle territorial disputes – sigh. The virtual element ball just flew off and hit the floor so I’m just going to take that as a sign and put a bow on this post.

Wash those hands people!

13 thoughts on “Check Out the Tail on that One”

  1. Heard on the news your esteemed leader wants to ‘open up the States for business’ and lift lockdowns, whilst we over here have just been sentenced to another 3 weeks. Well good luck with that one, we’ll just sit back and see what the result is (guinea pigs spring to mind).
    As for the thrush I have only ever seen one New World example that was Grey Cheeked which also looks like your find, does it not occur in Ill?
    Stay safe B. Lockdowns suck for sure but maybe better safe than sorry? Remember some of us still have to mingle with the hordes of potential C-Bombs when we would rather not!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually Sweden is our guinea pig – they went the “it’s just another damn flu” route so been watching them and their infected curves and they look no different if not better than ours. Clearly we have to get the economy up and running again or the “cure will be worse than the disease”. We do get the Grey-Cheeked variety on migration paths, but definitely not resident as they push way north for breeding – not sure where they end up after migration (my region maps just so migration to the end of the regions – mush push significantly south of us. I think of you ever time someone brings our groceries out and puts them in our car – at least this way we stay away from the checkouts and keep our safe distance to all but one of the workers.


  2. Congratulations to Ron! GHO spot…although does it count? I haven’t seen him post a single thing in decades!

    Had to laugh about high school/college days. I wondered who those guys sitting behind me in class were that made everyone laugh while the geeky me was being the teachers pet and trying to learn something. Darn what did that get me? A first class ticket to your favorite hotspots in the World… like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungry, and middle of the night airfields loading aircraft in Germany going on some UN mission somewhere! Ahhh the days of what a higher education could get you!
    Love the post. News from here is exciting!!! Our first egg!!!! Next blog.😊

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Funny! I had never really put much thought into it as “B” never seemed a threat. But… now that you mentioned it… hummmm. I will contact the authorities immediately!
        “ Look for man with large camera in IL parks who is pointing said very large camera at innocent birds.”
        “What? You don’t have time for that why? …. crisis what f**king crisis?”
        … long pause
        “Ok, Officer don’t tell me later I didn’t warn you!”


        That is about how stupid this crap is getting. Plus- I wouldn’t turn him in, besides having a wife with a heart condition thAt some wonderful MN doctors fixed, he sends me cute baby animal pictures. Who doesn’t like baby animal pictures?

        The anti – Christ I am guessing!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Whoa, Whoa Whoa – take a break for a couple of days and the conspiracy theories let fly. First off, if I was going to pick an alter ego would a I pick a 9 year older version of myself – ummm nope, thinking more like a John Wick – Baba Yaga – “Whoever comes, whoever it is…I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all” Now doesn’t that sound like a better alter ego than – Hi, I’m Ron (not Brian) and I like to blog on birds (when I get around to it). I did have a chat with Ron (not me) and he has promised me he will do a post. I even shamed him and told him you two were throwing shade at him.


      3. Everybody likes cute animal pictures!! and you don’t want to know what I would turn into if someone stole my car and killed my puppy.

        “When Helen died, I lost everything. Until that dog arrived on my doorstep. A final gift from my wife. In that moment, I received some semblance of hope. An opportunity to grieve unalone. And your son took that from me…stole that from me…killed that from me! People keep asking if I’m back. And I haven’t really had an answer. But now, yeah, I’m thinking I’m back! So, you can either hand over your son, or you can die screaming alongside him!”


    1. It does NOT count as it is clearly stated in our rules that if you have a blog (which we know he does) it has to be posted there before you get credit for the +1. So, I did jump the gun a bit as he hasn’t officially been able to add it… it was more of a guilt nudge that apparently hasn’t been successful yet. If I remember correctly “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!”. Sounds like you had yourself some interesting adventures – guessing those early education skills came in handy more than once though. Cant’ wait to read about the first egg. I’m a bit behind on everything due to some work deliverables and having to spread 2-tons of mulch these last couple of days.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. WOW!! I go off-grid for a little bit and I’m hit with all kinds of smack 🙂

    I’ve actually posted something on my blog now after much shaming by both Brians as well as CJ! Technically, CJ is nearly correct in saying I haven’t posted in decades, as my last post was in 2019 so my new post is the first in this decade.

    Brian, was this the trip to Starved Rock State Park where first we were subjected to a huge thunderstorm and then suffered through tremendous heat and humidity while hiking up and down hills fighting mosquitos? If so, I remember it.

    It’s good to read a reminder of the differences in these thrushes. I was birding in the Ryerson Conservation Area around Chicago a couple weeks ago and couldn’t tell which I was taking pictures of, which was embarrassing because someone was asking me what it was and I didn’t know. BTW, that’s also the place I got the pics of the Great Horned Owl pair!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy cow, how many posts did you get through with comments – think I am in my second hour of responding to them all – don’t get me wrong, definitely appreciate it. Your followers want to hear from you Ron .. starved for information and entertainment for an entire DECADE. Yes, this was exactly that outing at Starved Rock. Come to think about it, I even think there was a running race taking place in the park and we were shocked (well, at least me being the runner in all) that it was still going on with the massive storm and lightening that came up. I definitely remember the mosquitoes there – horribly thick. Were you wearing your ebird had when they asked you what bird it was ? if so, that would have been funny to witness. When are we going to see those Great Horned Owl pictures Ron ….soon I hope.. just saying.


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