Thrasher Quest

For several years I’ve lamented a couple of holes in my life list, birds not far from each other taxonomically and not far from places I’ve been on prior birding trips but still unheard and unseen by me until this spring.  A few weeks ago I kicked off my spring break by leading a naturalist workshop for The Nature Conservancy in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley.  From there I decided to proceed to Arizona on a quest to finally see Bendire’s and Le Conte’s Thrashers.   Some research on eBird and Google seemed to point to a nexus appropriately enough called “The Thrasher Spot” in the desert west of Phoenix near Buckeye where both birds are frequently encountered.

The locality delivered as promised, though by this late in the Sonoran spring (I was there 24 & 25 March) the thrashers weren’t singing much.  Sage Thrashers, still awaiting their departures to territories farther north, provided nice vocal comparison when they sang and kept my eye busy as they popped up on shrubs or in mesquite trees.  Abundant Northern Mockingbirds also kept me on my toes with their mimid form & sounds.  Le Conte’s Thrasher proved to be the easier of my two main birds of interest, dashing around between clumps of shrubbery with tails cocked high like pale mini-roadrunners and perching in mesquites with some regularity to survey their territory.  In contrast, Bendire’s was quite a bit more difficult to observe.  I was pretty sure I heard a few distant Bendire’s songs on the evening I arrived, but the morning of my most intense searching was getting pretty late with no signs of the enigmatic bird until I noticed a couple of potential targets sitting up above the scrub in a mesquite tree.  I trained my APO-Televid on the nearest of the pair and BAM- Bendire’s Thrasher acquired!!

Anyway, I thought it was pretty spiffing to see three thrasher species (with Northern Mockingbird rounding out the list as the 4th mimid) at a single location with a few hours’ effort.  I was also fortunate to find birds cooperative enough to get some video footage through my 65mm APO-Televid with my iPhone & PhoneSkope adapter.  Check out the movie below to compare & contrast these superb desert denizens!

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