Hermit Thrush

A good many small birds were active late this morning, on a clear and sparkling day, with blue sky, a few high white clouds, and a bright warm sun. The sunlight turned the lingering brown of the oaks to glowing copper and brought out the beauty in the last few orange and dull yellow colors of fall, so different from the way the landscape now looks on a cloudy day – and we’ve had so many cloudy days this year.

As I walked down the road, an Eastern Bluebird flew from a tree to the ground, breathtakingly blue. A dozen or more Chipping Sparrows scattered up from the grass into small trees. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet chattered, and Yellow-rumped Warblers called chip as they flew from tree to tree. Brown-headed Nuthatches squeaked up high in the pines, and one White-breasted Nuthatch honked its small, nasal call. A Red-bellied Woodpecker chucked, a Downy Woodpecker whinnied. A Northern Flicker called kleer!

In one of the more wooded parts of the neighborhood, a solitary bird about the size and shape of a Robin, but more slender, with a certain willowy grace, stood in the middle of the road ahead of me, head up, looking around. It was a Hermit Thrush – the first one I’ve found here this season. It was pecking now and then at a litter of leaves, pine needles and other debris in the road, washed down by recent rains.

It was especially nice to find a Hermit Thrush here, in exactly the same area where I often watched one last winter, near one particular yard with lots of hardwood trees and a scattering of young beech trees. Because it stood in a shady spot, I couldn’t see its markings very well or the rufous in the tail, but the spots on its chest showed up, and its shape and posture and behavior identified it well – the way it held its head, slightly tilted back, with the thin, pointed bill held slightly up. It twitched its tail from side to side – not raising and lowering it as it often does. When I took a couple of steps closer, it flew, along with several other, smaller birds feeding along the roadside.

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