Swainson’s Thrush

After an all-day showery rain yesterday, this morning dawned clear and bright and sunny, and became a picture-perfect day to end the month. The sky was a deep September-blue, not a cloud in sight, and cool breezes kept the trees in motion and rang the wind chimes softly. Such heartbreakingly beautiful weather in such dark and painful times. The pandemic continues, and presidential politics dominate the news. The levels of anger, corruption, racism and utter lack of compassion are frightening. Every day seems to bring more and more grim news, of a kind we could never have imagined only four years ago.

Early this afternoon, a White-breasted Nuthatch murmured its low, intimate call from trees around the back yard. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds twittered and hummed, much less combative now than a week or two ago, more focused just on fueling up for migration. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice chattered inside the woods. 

When I saw a lot of rustling in the leaves of a dogwood tree on the edge of the yard, I watched for several minutes and finally a graceful Swainson’s Thrush came into view, eating a bright red dogwood berry.

A Swainson’s Thrush is a bird we only see here during spring or fall migration, and I don’t often find one even then, so it was especially fun to see – especially such a clear, vivid view. It’s a medium-size thrush with a plain brown back and wings, and a white breast with dark spots, especially heavy on the throat and upper breast. A distinct pale ring around the eye gives its face an appealing, watchful expression. It stayed in view only for a minute or two, then disappeared back into the leaves. 

Like other thrushes, Swainsons are known for their ethereal, fluted songs, which I’ve never been lucky enough to hear. They spend summers in far northern forests, and migrate through a large part of the U.S. to their winter homes in South America. 

The dogwood tree on the edge of our back yard has often attracted migrating birds in the fall, like the Swainson’s Thrush. It’s full of red berries now, and I’m hopeful we might see more birds stopping by in the next week or so.

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