Saturday, March 13, 2010

Brush Thrush

In the past few weeks I've been discovering just how valuable local listservs and field reports can be for sharing new bird sightings and tips for finding rare vagrants. While adding the long-eared owl to my life list in January was the first time I've used such tips, it certainly won't be the last, and I've been fortunate to have several more opportunities.

Of course, just because you have a tip and the time to take it doesn't mean finding the bird will be easy. Recently I learned about a varied thrush visiting Utah County just a few miles from my home, and I was eager to see the bird, since they don't appear in Utah that frequently. Every tip I read noted how the bird was near the paved pathway and how the location was easy to find, so I set out with high hopes for some easy and rewarding birding.

The location was easy to find, but only if you're familiar with the trail system it was on. I walked around a superfluous part of the path for nearly half an hour before getting onto the right loop to find the abandoned pump house, next to which the varied thrush was apparently happy to forage regularly. Once I got to that pump house (which is in the photo if you look hard enough), however, I realized it wouldn't be an easy sighting - the brush was so thick and tangled that it was only possible to see small patches of ground, and it took great patience to wait long enough for the bird to forage in just the right spot and at just the right angle for a positive view. Fortunately I had another birder attempting the same task, and together we were able to spot the varied thrush - a beautiful male bird with bold colors and industrious behavior - and I added another lifer to my list.

Even with modern technologies, high power optics, and the best foreknowledge, it can still be a challenge to find new birds. That challenge is what keeps us going into the field, hopeful and watchful, waiting for the next sighting.


Cynthia said...

I was wondering where you found the report on the thrush you were looking for.

Cynthia said...

I was wondering where you found the bird list for your area. Thanks.

Melissa said...

Hi Cynthia! I find the bird reports from the Utah County Birders website (; click on the "Combined List" link at the top left of the page! It's updated with every report, and a great resource. If you ever like to go birding, just let me know!