Monday, January 26, 2015

The Thing About Varied Thrushes, Part 4

Varied Thrush @ Redwood Regional Park
Who would think I could squeeze another post out of the commonplace (by now) Varied Thrush? Over the past few months, mysteriously, I have had copious encounters with Varied Thrushes, once considered (by me) a rare sighting. In three prior posts, I have written about these mysterious copious encounters precipitated by a widespread appearance of the species after a lengthy absence (I think). After my last two birding adventures, though, it cannot go unnoticed nor unrecorded that I "chanced upon" multiple Varied Thrushes! Once again. Make that thrice again, with an eye witness account of three individual specimens sighted foraging together at Redwood Regional Park. The day before, it was a frisky pair suddenly appearing out of nowhere to land on a branch and poke around on a sunny patch of loam along sweetly burbling Wildcat Creek Gorge Trail.

Golden-crowned Kinglet @ Wildcat Creek Gorge Trail
That's a first - spotting a Varied Thrush in the 5,000+ acre expanse of Redwoods above the city of Oakland. A bird hot spot, I was there hoping to spot one of four Owl species, whose vocalizations were reported a week ago by Bill Clark at Birding News (Northern Saw-whet, Western Screech, Great Horned, and Northern Pygmy). Amazing his ability to ID them based on their calls! In no time, I had experienced several cool sightings hiking up and down Golden Spike Trail / Dunn Loop, a long-time favorite. Saw a female Downy Woodpecker pecking away on dead branch; a Fox Sparrow motionless and mostly hidden in thickets; a very hard to pin down Golden-crowned Kinglet - only about my fourth sighting ever of the (still exotic) bird; and looping, pretty Western Bluebirds hanging out on a tall snaggy pine in full view of dozens of hikers, not one of whom looked up. (Explains my sore neck.) And then the Varied Thrushes, normally a skittish, furtive, fleeting, hard to spot and mainly solitary creature, but I have to tell you, this weekend, the Varied Thrushes were out and about taking care of business. Even my non-birder wife (Gambolin' Gal) got a glimpse of them each time, admittedly thrilling her but not enough to take up the habit.

Western Bluebirds @ Redwood Regional Park
The thing about seeing Varied Thrushes, or the Golden-crowned Kinglet - YES! - or a Band-tailed Pigeon, for example (also spotted in Redwood Park a few months ago) is that each encounter seems to be a happenstance, serendipitous event, a ninety-nine percent chance of never having occurred . . .and yet it occurred! Making it a one in a million event. Because birds are not there for your enjoyment or benefit to add to Life Lists; they're here and there, just for a while, and then gone like a whirring mirage, owned by no one, free as a . . .

Sure, some birds strike a prolonged pose or stick around in playful fits or hunt and peck mode, but in my experience, the Varied Thrush has always appeared suddenly, disappearing even faster. So what gives with them putting on such a show lately?

Finally, it will be interesting to see if and when they decide to fly the coop. Surely, they will join hundreds of millions of other migrating species to fly south, or north, or whichever direction their internal GPS takes them. Or maybe they're here to stay. . .for a while. We shall (hopefully) see.