Thrushed into the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! My apologies as it has been a while since my last post. Linda and I are in the midst of our annual trip down the Texas Gulf Coast and our days and nights have been extremely full due to traveling and birding at numerous places along the way. Thanks to less-than-ideal weather at the moment, thought I’d try to put it to good use and dig out the laptop. Speaking of weather, Ron and I got an introduction to “extreme birding” at Galveston Island last week. I am beginning to think Linda and I might have angered the weather gods at some point as it seems whenever we head south to escape the finger numbing temps at home, we end up dragging the cold weather down with us. A year ago we brought lower Texas record ice storms and snow (our apologies to the traumatized Sea Turtles). This year we once again brought a cold snap – not as frigid, but with the addition of 35-40mph winds it was downright ….uncomfortable (decided not to go with Linda’s description hehehe). We would step out of the RV and get sandblasted. Felt like a Texas face peel! Great care was taken to keep the blowing sand off of The Beast – using my body to shield and making sure to be upwind of target birds. I was thinking of the best way to describe the conditions and then it hit me … why not pull out the phone and capture it!

UPDATE: if that link is not rendering on your browser, you should be able to go directly to my Smugmug gallery with this link:

https://eddiesoft.smugmug.com/Wildlife/Wildlife-Vacations/Texas-January-2022/i-vV3tdtv/A

So, what would entice me enough to risk being blown into the gulf? The answer is the cut throat world of competitive sibling birding. Ron and I have decided to do an “Average Year” – our term for a big year for those of us without the time and/or finances to be considered in the “Big Year” (650+species) echelons – hell my lifetime species count just topped 300. To kick off our counts, we invited Ron to join us down here. This may be a competition, but no reason not to be civilized especially with Texas being such a mecca for birding – not to mention 6 eyes are better than 4 when out in the field. More to come on this topic for sure, however, it is time to get to the first featured feathered friend of the young year.

Hit the jump to learn more about our spotty specimen.

Knowing I was going to be away from the base for a while, I did manage to get a number of images from last year’s birding trips prepped for traveling posts. Today’s speckled specimen comes to you courtesy of our Dauphin Island trip last April. This particular bird managed to trick me at first and, as a result, almost cost me the +1.

The coloring on the back and wings is very similar to the Brown Thrasher (link here). Even the lighter belly with the brown spotting lines up well with that. After the trip to Dauphin I now know to give my first impressions a quick validation. A closer look at the bill and tail is really all that is needed. The Thrasher has a wickedly long bill and impressively long tail in contrast to our Wood Thrush here. Additional checks would be the eyes (Thrashers have yellow ones and Woods have dark eyes adorned with a white eye ring) and possibly the legs are more pinkish on the Thrush although that might be harder to detect depending on the light in the field.

We first spotted this Thrush while exploring the Shell Mound area. It managed to pop out on the trail while we were busy trying to track down the elusive Kentucky Warbler (link here). To my defense, another birder had recently mentioned there was a nesting Thrasher nearby which definitely tipped the scales away from the Wood Thrush option. Staying true to the role “shoot anything that moves”, took a few snaps and went back to focusing on the Kentucky.

At some point the lady who pointed out the Kentucky’s presence noted the Wood on the trail – “Whoa, did she just reference my Thrasher as a Thrush?”. A quick look at the tin confirmed it. Immediately updated my internal bird profile algorithm. For the fellow programmers out there, vision a new node on a massive binary tree at the intersection of light brown and spots to help prevent future overlooks. Once the tree update was committed, recompiled and loaded back into memory (yes, IT people are weird ha), went to work getting better shots in the tin.

This new attention also allowed me time to become familiar with other interesting features of this Wood. They definitely have the profile of the standard Thrush – plumpish body, multi-toned bill, robust head and the blueprint movement that makes American Robins (link here) so easy to identify – dash a few feet away, stop abruptly, posture up and remain motionless for 2 to 3 seconds. Note, the Wood is slightly smaller than Robin.

A few more interesting tidbits to leave you with. According to Cornell, these Thrushes often fall victim to those asshat Brown-Headed Cowbirds (link here) and their brood parasite nastiness. “In some Midwest forest edge habitats, virtually every Wood Thrush nest contains at least one cowbird egg.” That is absolutely shocking to me. Normally at this point, I’d make some comment about wanting to be a fly on the nest when the husband sees the Cowbird chick pop out of the shell – buuuuuuutttt, Cornell is pretty explicit the female Thrushes prowl for different ‘Wood’ (literally hehehe) throughout the breeding season. “At some sites, as many as 40 percent of a female’s young are not fathered by its mate.”

Bri’s breaking out the bad puns.. time to call it a post! Hope you enjoyed the first post of ’22 and looking forward to what the new year brings. Oh, in case you are interested, Ron and I managed to go +134 in our first 9 days – a great start if I say so myself.

21 thoughts on “Thrushed into the New Year”

    1. Happy 2022! Nice photos. And great story to go along with it. I especially enjoyed the coy over the shoulder parting shot.

      You may have accidentally stumbled on the title for your book: An Average Year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Brad! Ron would say the over the shoulder shot is my signature shot. I always try to get that pose whenever I’m shooting my subjects. You get the back features and the facials features in one shot – double bonus. We were joking about a book and we decided a great book would be from Linda’s perspective who has to drive us all around, put up with our birding idiosyncrasies and do the research to know what birds are each location – I think we should start pushing her to get writing!

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  1. You have Thrushed well. Beautiful shots of the pretty birds. Speaking of thrusts, I watched some videos of Steel Panther with their new bass player Rikki Dazzle.

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    1. Ha, Steel Panther and thrusts, now that brings back concert memories. Did Steel Panther finally announce the winner of their “Bass-Off Championship”!?! Although sad you didn’t get in the running, I am looking forward to seeing how they sound/behave with Lexi gone. Satchel is the workhorse in the band, but Sticks and Lexi definitely rounded out the sound.

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      1. Hilarious! will try to catch a few of their videos while I’m down here … their Rocklahoma concert last year cracked me up (avail on YouTube) – you could tell some in the audience were not ready for their parody.

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  2. I forgot to comment on the video. You were able to witness something not often seen in North America: a sand dune migration. Unfortunately the sand migrated into the sea. I was surprised to see you both standing upright in the windstorm. Well done protecting The Beast from the abrasive exfoliating sand.

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    1. That was an incredible experience – you are right, the sand was rapidly “migrating” (like that term) to the sea. Did you happen to notice the waves were actually going against wind? To give Ron credit, he did position himself so he could block the wind for a majority of the wind – I was actually circling around him when making the 360 panorama. We both got a blast of sand in our face/eyes when we exited the fan – now that hurt big time – also know how unwanted graffiti feels like hehehe.

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      1. While I know you have experienced the Sandhill Cranes, have you experienced the actual Sandhills of Nebraska? They take up about 1/3 of the north and western parts of the state. You can see them on I-80 for a little while near North Platte. We were at a museum there once when the presenter used the term “migratory” for the Sandhills, which used to be in Wyoming a million years ago or so. During dry seasons the scrub brush dies off making the sand vulnerable to the prevailing westerlies and the sand begins to “migrate” eastward towards Iowa.

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      2. I am not familiar with the actual Sandhills – how interesting. On the Crane front, the Nebraska Cranes are on my list of things to see the next time we plan a trip out there (Yellowstone or Colorado). Since I already have that Crane here, I put that item farther down my list.

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    1. Thank you Kaya – glad I could introduce you to a new bird. Each of the Thrushes in NA have their own unique characteristics and behaviors that makes them a joy to observe (and photograph) in the field. Appreciate you coming by.

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  3. Loved the “Dunes on the Move” video – I’ve been there, and felt that, for sure! Hope the weather is more cooperative as your trip proceeds. Thanks for the Thrush images – I love how you always manage to get beautifully rich colors in your photos – shade or sun.

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    1. It is amazing isn’t it – hope I never get a real sandstorm. Staying fairly cool this week down in South Padre – hoping we get past the cloudy days soon (causing my ISO to creep to uncomfortable levels). Ron will tell you the quality of pics is all due to the camera ha! I like to use the motto “never let ’em see the cutting room floor”. Soooooo, any chance you will be heading down to see the Santa Ana NWR rarity that is lighting up the birding world?

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    1. Well, Sam, sorry to make you envious, but Ron and I did tin the Bat Falcon (shhhhhh, don’t let anyone else know or that will spoil the future post ha). Unfortunately, it didn’t show until dusk requiring ridiculously high ISO so we went back to today in the morning and it didn’t show….so we are going back tomorrow to try one more time. Stress is off as I do have images of it already, but I would like to get better ones – wish me luck.
      Soooo, on the other topic, we were pretty hesitant ourselves at first, but due to some other conflicts with another destination we opted to come anyway. honestly, Abbott is doing a good job – everywhere we have crossed the border wall there was a national guard member with automatic assault weapon in hand (thankfully not those civilian AR15 versions the uninformed keep claiming are assault weapons) standing next to their humvee. Texas also restarted building the wall on their own so there is a lot of activity there. As you probably know, a lot of the NWRs along the Rio Grande are either directly adjacent to the wall or past it and go to the banks of the Rio. The only one I haven’t felt safe in so far is Sabal Palms – twice now, that place has made me extremely uneasy as we were basically the ONLY people there (besides the National Guard/Border Patrol who sit about .3 miles from the entrance) – recommend you do not go to that one – the rest we have had zero issues with and even the cities and RV places have been fine beyond the usual border watch units in the parking lots, copters flying overhead and the border patrol SUVs whipping around. With that said, we still carry our own personal protection when birding the border.

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      1. Glad you got that little bird – nuff said till you publish 🙂 As to the rest, thanks for the report, glad you feel safe, glad Abbot is being effective, and VERY glad you take personal protection. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

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  4. That is quite the video of sand blowing. That would be hard on the eyes. 😉 beautiful photos of this cute little bird. I have heard stories about some birds sneaking their eggs into other birds nest. amazing how they do that. 🙂

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    1. You are absolutely right – took me forever to get the grit out of my eyes that night – and the RV! Yep, those parasite brood birds are quite evil. As with the case of the Cowbirds, in our area they tend to lay their eggs in smaller statured birds. This causes the parents who are not smart enough to kick the intruder egg out of the nest to devote all their time to feeding the larger bird at the detriment to their actual chicks and even the parents that can also be taxed finding that much extra food. Oh well, the circle of life is in constant motion. Thanks for coming by Sandra – hope you are enjoying yourselves on the Gulf Coast.

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