Getting Cheekie

Been a bit out of pocket lately and that is entirely due to Linda and I being out on Exploration Tres and not having Internet for the first part of the trip. Somehow Linda convinced me to head out on the road again in the midst of what should be heavy training for the upcoming 50 mile ultra run. I could say it involved foot stomping, yelling, manhood challenging and all kinds of medieval torture, but that would be a bit of a stretch. Truth is she gets on ebird, finds bird sightings where she wants to travel to and then spends the weeks leading up to departure date blurting out birds I do not have whenever we pass by each other. Kind of like Tourette’s Syndrome for birder wives. Quite devious if you ask me. The silver lining is if I fail on the run I can blame her!

Anyway, while on the road, I have a few cycles to get a post or two out of the way (connectivity permitting). Say hello to today’s featured feathered friend.

Gray-Cheeked Thrush found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

If you recall, I thought I was setting a drab baseline in my previous post. At the time I was under the impression that it was hard to get much duller than one of those little brown jobbers technically called a Sparrow. Ended up being a bit shocked at the feedback I received contrary to that assumption. Apparently, some of you out there think those LBJs can be snappy dressers. That opinion threw a small wrench in my plans to have a growing crescendo of color as we progressed through the month. What to do, what to do…

Gray-Cheeked Thrush found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about our shy friend.

Decided the best option was to try and reset the baseline. Surely there was a bird out there that we can all agree is rather mundane. Should probably refine that statement – a dull bird that is already in my backlog. After digging through thousands and thousands of backlogged images (yes, it is that bad ugh), I came upon this Thrush. Yeah, it has some spotting and a bit of yellowish on the bill, beyond that grey as a cloudy day. The discoverer was so bored with it, it was given the ridiculously long name of “Ghastly Rubbish Arduous Yucky Crabby Humdrum EEriest irKsome Dullard bird”. Thanks to a backlash from the bird blogging community who didn’t want to get finger arthritis whenever they featured this bird, it was shortened to simply Gray-Cheeked along with Thrush as a shout out to its family.

Gray-Cheeked Thrush found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

As you can easily tell from the shot above, these Cheekies are not to happy about this name – rather smug about it if you ask me. If they are that upset about it there are all kinds of feather dyes out there that would brighten them right up. Until then, they are the new official baseline pending any surprises in the comments. A little background on our Cheekie. It was discovered while birding Dauphin Island back in April. Mentioned before Ron was able to join us down there so I couldn’t gain any ground on his bird count. When we are out together we almost always tin the same birds as we hang together and share sightings (we are brothers after all ha!). There are those rare cases when we have a miss and this just might be one of them.

Gray-Cheeked Thrush found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

We were at Shell Mound and giving one last effort to tin a Blue-Winged Warbler. We were alerted to its presence a few days earlier, but were unsuccessful in locating it to that point. That ended up being the big miss for the week. Getting close to calling it, Ron got a call. “While you are getting that, I’ll just maybe wander over there, you know, just kind of check things out, maybe look at the wildflowers over there, maybe find a Butterfly for our fellow blogger B. in the UK, yeah, I’ll just mosey on over there while you get that, look – a tiny mouse….”. Now, I think you will agree if a bird would say pop out onto the path, I have to shoot it, right!?! Guess what happened hehehe. This Cheekie startles out of the high weeds and lands right there in front of me. “Ron, Ron, Ron … [had to keep my voice down, didn’t want to startle the bird]. Snap, snap, snap, snap, verify it was what I thought it was and then a few more snaps before it took flight. Admittedly I might have forgotten to mention this encounter, but in my defense it was a very long call. It is unfortunate we didn’t have any more encounters with this species the rest of the trip. Note, there is a slight chance we did get pictures of one earlier in the week and mistook it as a Swainson’s Thrush, but our preliminary investigation didn’t give us a lot of confidence that was the case. Did I mention this was a +1 for me… just saying.

Gray-Cheeked Thrush found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Out of shots in this series thanks to the “extremely brief time” I had with it hehehe. The Gray-Cheeked Thrush breeds in Canada/Russia and only migrates through the states to get there from their wintering destination in South America. That means this might be a hard one for Ron to catch up on barring another trip to a migration hotbed especially since Cornell describes this bird as the “shyest and hardest-to-identify of the Thrushes”. They forgot to add the word “drab”. Like all Thrushes they are ground foragers. The interesting tidbit that intrigued me was they’ll follow Army Ants and take out any insects that are spooked by their march. If nothing stirs, they are perfectly fine just eating the Ant. Ingenious!

Will put a bow on it there. Hope you enjoyed my newest addition to the bird list – well, all but probably one of you. I suspect I will know exactly when that person reads this post. Take it easy everyone and hopefully we will have connectivity for the rest of the trip (fingers crossed).

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