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:
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.