A Hermit Thrush

After several days of unseasonably warm temperatures, it was cold again this morning, in the 20s, but sunny and bright. As I watched some White-throated Sparrows feeding in the back yard near several shrubs, a Hermit Thrush suddenly emerged from beneath a holly bush, ran quickly across a patch of bare ground, then stopped and stood still, looking wide-eyed and watchful. With grayish-brown plumage and a dark-spotted breast, a Hermit Thrush is a quiet, solitary bird that’s only here in the winter, and that’s more likely to be seen on or near the ground than up high in a tree.

I was especially happy to see it because it’s the first one I’ve seen or heard this year around our house, and it’s one of my favorite winter birds to watch – at the same time reclusive and lively, like a shy person who shows a colorful personality only when he thinks no one is looking. This one, like most Hermit Thrushes I’ve seen in the winter, was alone, and its behavior was typical. Emerging abruptly from beneath a bush, running for a few feet, then stopping and standing still, head held up high, then running and stopping again, now and then raising its rufous tail quickly, and lowering it slowly. Then – startled by something – it dove back into the bushes.

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