Shortly afterwards, the rain cleared up enough for an experimental foray into my favorite birding areas. First, we went to a small marsh wetland area, which proved to be a mistake. While I was happy to see the song sparrow and catch a glimpse of a hummingbird, the mosquitoes were aggressive and hungry. My husband and I quickly moved on, heading for a steep canyon in Provo that we've not yet gotten up to this spring. And what a wonderful choice it was!
The scenery was outstanding; rough, steep cliffs and a furious mountain stream alongside the steep asphalt and gravel trail. But the birds were most exciting of all: a stunning flock of western tanagers, plenty of American robins, a pair of spotted towhees, one proud male lazuli bunting, and a new one for my life list, a Townsend's solitaire.
The Townsend's solitaire is remarkable in that it is a purely plain bird of undistinguished medium gray plumage. The white eye ring is neither bold nor striking, and the white outer tail feathers are not easily visible while the bird is perched. We watched the bird, comparing it to my field guide, for fifteen minutes hoping to see something more distinctive, until it flew off down the river, fortunately in the direction we were heading. Around the next bend, we found the same bird in a pathside tree, flitting about as it foraged for insects. It would perch on an open branch for a moment, then dart up to a tree, snap at an insect, and return to the perch, repeating that action over and over as it fed. In doing this it afforded me most excellent views, and there is no doubt about its identity.
It just goes to show that even a day that may not seem conducive to the best birding can be more rewarding than you imagine. I hope your weekend visitors and birding walks are just as exciting!