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Best Backyard Bird (so far)

November 25, 2005

Late one afternoon back in late September, a fluttering bird caught my eye through the kitchen window to our backyard. We have a finch feeder back there, and I’m accustomed to seeing House Finches and House Sparrows frequenting it, but something told me right away that this bird, furtively moving around the ivy, was different. I waited for it to move again, and muttered “Oh oh oh oh oh oh !” while scrambling to find my binocs and my camera. Cindy wondered what the hubbub was, so I told her it was a migrating thrush, the first one I’d ever seen in our yard.

We’ve been here for about a year, and we generally don’t get too many really interesting birds back there. The highlights so far have been Townsend’s Solitaires, a first-year male Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pine Siskins, a short-lived invasion of Common Grackles, and an inquisitive scolding flock of House Wrens. But this handsome Hermit Thrush was a welcome addition. I photographed it with my Canon XT Digital Rebel with 300mm telephoto, through a glass door (not what I’d have liked, but I didn’t want to spook the bird – thrushes are easily disturbed).

This bird hung around for about 15-20 minutes, looking around curiously, and remaining wonderfully calm. That helped because I did have to spend several minutes studying it with Sibley in hand, making sure it was indeed a Hermit and not a Swainson’s (or even some unlikely variety like Gray-Cheeked) Thrush. I based my ID on its reddish-tinged tail (not seen in this photo, but in others), the lack of buffy wash on the breast, an overall squat appearance (Hermits are slightly chunkier-looking than Swainson’s), and that the breast marks are sharper and not as smudgy as other brown thrushes.

It’s nice when you can add a Colorado Life bird and a Year bird without leaving your house.

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