Those that follow the Intrigued mothership are already aware of the good news, but the mere fact there is a new post here officially confirms to all my readers that the running demons were left slain last Saturday. The redemption is complete as my one blemish on the race record has been officially erased. Yep, the 2019 PR for failure at the Cry Me a River (CMAR) 50K Trail Race (link here) has been superseded by the successful completion of this year’s running (2020 was canceled for obvious reasons). To say I’ve been fretting about this event would probably be considered an understatement by my wife. Although I had trained my ass off, the inevitable doubts were coming to a crescendo as I walked to the starting line. The standard neurotic runner fare “Why was this body part hurting, did I taper to quick.. too long, should have done more double days, damn vacation days cost me valuable runs, hey, there’s a squirrel”. More details than you would ever want to know are up on the mothership (link here), but for a quick summary the temps stayed well under the 100+ heat index experience in ’19 that were responsible for taking me out. Unfortunately, that issue was replaced by RAIN, a LOT of rain, really, I mean torrents of rain coming down for the entire back half of the 11 hours it took me to complete the event. That course is brutal enough dry – having to negotiate the continuous climbs and descents in slick mud made for one hell of a day. Two of the usual stream crossings turned into a step and pray game through 2+ foot rapids. Proud to say I never went down the entire 34+ miles (yeah, their course was long adding to the punishment). Couldn’t be happier with results and owe a lot of that success to Linda who coordinated the multiple chase points to keep me hydrated/nourished and spirits up through the entire challenge. I did think about the blog while navigating my way through the endless downpour – ‘cuz that’s what I do ha! Decided the perfect post to follow that race was this featured feathered friend.
This bird fit on many different fronts. First off, the obvious as it literally has water in its species name. In case you are not familiar with this pink footed bird it is a Waterthrush. Like the course, it is deviously deceptive. You would think it was part of the Thrush family by the name alone, however, it is really a Warbler. As with the race map it certainly looks flat until you are trying to figure out exactly where the “flat” part of Illinois is. Lastly, like the run, this bird was difficult both trying to get in the tin and harder still was trying to properly ID the specific Waterthrush species. The difficulty of the 50K goes without saying.
Hit the jump to learn more about this newly designated CMAR mascot.
In North America, we have access to two species of Waterthrush, specifically, the Louisiana and the Northern varieties. If you are lucky you might be able to narrow it down by region. The breeding ground for the Northern is, indeed, in Canada provinces. They can dip south of that border into a Montana, heavily in the New England states and a smattering in between. Louisianas stays south of that for breeding through the eastern half of US. There is a slight overlap in the New England states. Unfortunately, their non-breeding and migration overlaps so no easy button in those months.
Next up is habitat. Northerns tend to hang out in non-moving waters preferring to forage in the muck of swamps, stagnant ponds and floodles. Contrast that with the Louisiana’s preference for faster moving streams and rivers. I first learned of this distinction from the two birders we met while looking for Fish Crows at the Audubon Sanctuary on Dauphin Island (link here). We spotted a Waterthrush from afar and they both assumed a Northern as it was playing around in a floodle. They also wanted to get a look at the legs, but it was too far and dark for any detail there. Our specimen today was shot in April at Shell Mound on Dauphin a day before we went to the Audubon site. Not sure what to really call the water feature this one was found in – kind of a babbling brook or maybe a shallow pond draining off excess from all the rains they had that week. Either way, hard to use as a definitive ID. Okay, not left with picking out the few distinguishing features.
Their eyebrows (supercilium) have a slight difference. The Northern’s are thinner, maintain a constant width at the end and can have a buff tint. Louisianas stylists’ like to add a bit of chic to their customers and add a bit of a flair at the end. They also prefer their highlights to be whiter. A couple of shots above do show a bit of a flair, albeit very slight. Next up the feet. Louisianians have more of a pinkish hue to them, which this one certainly does. This does tip it a bit in their favor and likely why our new birder friends were trying to get that visual. Another divider, from a field perspective (the difference in bill size doesn’t help unless you have both together) the neck on the Northern is more streaked. This one is lacking full streaks on the inner throat area, although it does have some spotting/dashing in that area. Okay, that leaves me with coloring. The Northern can have more of a buff wash on their underparts. This one seems pretty white to me – admittedly, I did blow a bit of the whites at the back that were catching some of the light burning through the canopy – still the parts I didn’t over-expose are still on the white side.
With all that I’m calling this as a Louisiana Waterthrush. A bit bummed, as that bird has already been featured on the blog and officially checked off my list (link here). The Northern would have been a good add. There is still hope that one of the many other Waterthrush encounters Ron and I had will get me the check – I did tin the one on the Fish Crow outing. which the spotters figured was a Northern. On the upside, glad to finally get some decent pictures of this bird – I have quite a collection of muddled shots thanks to their zeal for hanging out in low light settings.
Will leave it there and direct my attention back to nursing my very sore body back to health.