Friday, April 30, 2021

Thrushes everywhere!


A Swainson's Thrush perches on a spruce bough, in a driving drizzle.

I had a meeting near Columbus's fabulous Green Lawn Cemetery this morning, and following that headed over to the cemetery to see what birds might be found. The cemetery's 360 acres is a magnet for migratory birds, especially given its position in a very urbanized landscape.

Today dawned with heavy clouds and intermittent showers. By the time I reached Green Lawn, the rain had become steady, ranging from mild drizzle to hard showers and precipitation fell the entire time that I was there.

It didn't take long to realize that the thrushes must have really been on the move the night before, and scores had decided to use the cemetery's lush grounds as a way station. Swainson's Thrush was most common, and many were feeding in the grass like robins. Some would flush as I drove by, hopping atop headstones.

A wet Veery, on a wet rock, in a very wet patch of woods.

After birding around for a bit, I decided I wanted to try and photograph birds in the rain. Keeping one's gear dry can be an issue, but not when there is a convenient bridge in the middle of some of the cemetery's best habitat. The bridge is out of service, and the gravel lane underneath it is no longer accessible to vehicles. So I made a dash for it, and got me and my rig under the cover of the bridge.

And there I stayed for an hour or so, while it rained on. While a Hooded Warbler - and better yet, a Kentucky Warbler - were bonuses, it was the thrush parade that mostly captivated me. Perhaps a few dozen Swainson's Thrushes were in the vicinity, and I was pleased to see two Gray-cheeked Thrushes. Several Wood Thrushes were nearby, as were a few Veery.

All of them would make regular forays onto the gravel lane, allowing for easy viewing, sometimes at close range as with the Veery in the photo above.

A Hermit Thrush takes a bath just a short distance from my post. He must have figured it wasn't possible to get any wetter, so why not take a dunk. At least half a dozen Hermits were still present. It is the earliest migrant of our speckle-bellied thrushes, and many have already passed through. We at or near peak migration for the other speckle-bellies. I would have loved to have photographed one of the Gray-cheeked or Wood Thrushes, but alas, none came into range.

Here is a short video of a Hermit Thrush that perched near me. Make sure your volume is up, to get the full aural sensation of the rain falling.

Sometimes people ask me: "What do birds do when it rains?"

Pretty much this. They get wet. Don't feel sorry for them, though. Feathers are remarkable objects, and the outer feathers are basically overlapping shingles that prevent water from percolating down to the bird's skin. These thrushes and other songbirds can easily ride out rainstorms such as we had in Central Ohio today.

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