Friday, January 22, 2010

Thrush at Quabbin April 2009

I have occasionally run across some interesting birds over the past several years and have managed to get photos of a few of them. I thought it would be interesting to post some photos and see what other people think of them.

The first bird I will look at will be a catharus type thrush. All of the photos have been cropped but otherwise unchanged. This bird was found early in the morning of April 30, 2009 moving through the woods in the central part of Quabbin. I was with a very experienced local birder at the time working on the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas. I saw the bird initially and first thought of Swainson's Thrush but it did not have the look of a typical Swainsons. The other birder with me immediately thought the bird seemed very interesting and worthy of further study. The bird never allowed an approach closer than 25-30 feet. The bird was all by itself and remained silent throughout our several minutes of viewing. The photos may not truly give the actually view we had in the field so I will supplement them with some additional observations and thoughts. The bird appeared to be similar in size and proportions to a Hermit Thrush. The bird lacked the typical buffy, yellowish face and bold spectacles of a Swainson's Thrush. This leaves us with Gray-cheeked or perhaps Bicknell's. In my mind at the time the face didn't have the plain, grayish face I have seen in Gray-cheeked. The face was basically a similar brown to the rest of the body and a slight grayish type eye ring, not as bold as a Hermit Thrush. Overall the coloration of the bird was a dull brownish with little variation noted at the time. The spotting on the breast was actually darker than what is shown in the photos but otherwise the photos are a fair representation of what was seen in the field. Following our viewing and with much discussion we determined the bird to be a Gray cheeked/Bicknells type. Given the early date of late April, either bird species would be quite unexpected. However this sighting corresponds with a large number of species arriving early due primarily to sustained southerly winds during this time in April. The latest edition of North American Birds goes into some detail concerning the early influx of migrants in the northeast in April of 2009. I still do not know for certain exactly what species the bird is and would love to hear some other opinions of ID of this bird. I have seen many examples of all the expected thrushes in the area (except Bicknells) and none of these species fit this bird exactly. I have additional photos and additional notes on the bird if anyone thinks it will help with an ID. Hope to hear some feedback on this bird.

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