Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Turning Hermit Thrush into Fox Sparrow

I took a short walk at the Wissahickon today hoping to see some migrants. Last Saturday my wife and I had seen our first Hermit Thrush of the spring, his head popping out of some rhododendrons, before he headed to his more usual location on the ground or on bare branches close to the ground. In the same area we had also seen a winter wren and what most likely were 1-2 Black-Capped Chickadees. Though Carolina Chickadees are far more common here I don't have much doubt that at least one of these was a Black-Capped.

Today at the same location I found none of these birds remaining. There were a number of Carolina Chickadees but no Black-Cappeds. Then I saw what must be a Hermit Thrush. It was facing away from me but I noticed some strong dark streaking along his flanks. But that didn't seem consistent with a Hermit Thrush. My next thought was a Wood Thrush but this seemed impossible. It was a month too early for Wood Thrushes. Finally I noticed how really thick the streaking was and also the gray on the head. It was a Fox Sparrow, the first of 2008! I assume if I'd looked long enough I would have seen a non-thrush like bill.

A bit later I came upon my first Eastern Phoebe of 2008. My wife had thought she'd seen one near same location this weekend but it had flown off before we could confirm it.

Outside of the expected birds, e.g. Titmice and White-Breasted Nuthatches, the only other surprise was a large high-flying bird. This turned out to be a Great Blue Heron. He seemed to be heading North along the Wissahickon. Normally we see them in the water if we see them at all at the Wissahickon so it was a surprise to see him so high. But they present a different picture when in flight high in the air than they do on the ground. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to pick up my sketch pad and try to get the elegant shape down on paper. Maybe next time.

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