.......and Reflections

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Casual and Rare Winter Vistor from America's Great Northwest

The Varied Thrush is a magnificent bird among our common thrushes. Although our American Robin is beautiful in its own right, the Varied thrush has some endearing qualities as well as stunning plumage.

A resident of the Pacific Northwest and breeding west of the Continental Divide it rarely but regularly wanders east including into the Great Lakes region. This is a pattern uncommon among most bird species but a few share this apparent wander lust.

A Varied Thrush has made its way into Holmes County, Ohio patronizing a feeder at an Amish home. The family welcomed at times hordes of birders anxious to see this species for the first time. I saw another bird at a feeder in Findlay State Park back in the 1980's but I was happy to make a trip to see another.

When I see a Varied Thrush it sends my mind and heart to the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park. The Varied Thrush is a signature of mature moist coniferous forests. It lives in dense, continuous stands of conifers. Sometimes they appear in the middle of a road but more often than not they are heard and nearly impossible to locate even when they are near.

The song sounds like a fluted thrush song delivered with a descending buzz. The males sing from the tops of spruce and cedar. They forage on moss laden forest floor. With even the best of effort they are still nearly impossible to find near, far up or down. The song is unmistakable and probably a bit unsettling if one didn't know it was a bird.

So, I love a mystery. It's elusive habits and it's casual "wander lust" are the very things that make this bird so cool and special. And when you finally get to see this creature it is punctuated beauty.

I have fond memories of visiting Glacier National Park in early June. The roads are closed and there may be 30 feet of snow at the pass that bridges west and east at the Continental Divide. Closed to vehicular traffic the road winding ever up to the pass and after a few hundred yards you see Glacier in all her wilderness glory. I watched Grizzly Bear mother and cubs crossing a high glacier and watched Ravens soaring high above.

It's a great walk. All along the way the erie and unmistakable song of the Varied Thrush serenades those the that weave their way along the road that bisects majestic spruce forest. And if your lucky a couple may grace you with an appearance on the quiet road ahead.

I enjoy seeing Ohio's rare visitors but I remain an advocate for birders to seek out as many birds in their natural habitat as possible so they can get to know the birds and more importantly the places they represent.

The Varied Thrush song is one best heard by the heart. My eternal pursuit of birds is smoking mirror. Birding is the leading edge of my insatiable need to experience wild places and wild things in the middle of nowhere.

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