Thrushing to the End of the Month

I cannot believe how fast this month has gone. Granted we were out of state for most of it, but even then, it feels like we accidentally took a wormhole to May. I’ve been in a bit of a panic since glancing at the post count for April. Even with Brad’s help, I was still way below my self-imposed monthly quota. Managed to claw my way back over last week with several finds from our trip to Las Vegas in Feb/Mar. Needed one more in these last couple of days before May. Checked out the queue – Brad has several ready for us, but he is still on assignment and want to keep him focused on the Ptarmigan objective. That left me three choices – a grey bird that continues the Desert NWR theme, a grey bird with quite the proboscis or a complete left turn to some creepy crawlies. Grabbed a coin, made a few tosses and welcome to today’s featured feathered friend.

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

Powers of deduction can quickly reveal the winner. No bursts of color and by birding standards a pretty normal bill…yep, we are going to stay with the Desert National Wildlife Refuge theme from the last couple of posts. While reading the latest finds from this site – specifically the Corn Creak Field Station area – three birds stood out. The Western Bluebird, the Mountain Bluebird and what I thought was a surprising addition based on our location.

Hit the jump to see how our quest went!

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

That officially put the target count at 2 for the Bluebirds and if this third bird was there then I’d do the Snoopy Dance as it meant a check for a bird I’ve been searching for a loooong time. Again, easily deduced.. we managed to tin the bird. Thank god Linda was a ways down the trail and didn’t see my dance when the ID was finally confirmed. There were a lot of questions when this predominantly grey washed bird was spotted sitting just off the trail in a rather prickly tree.

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

The eye-ring was very prominent, but that alone was not giving me confidence on what I was looking at – there are a lot of birds that sport that eye adornment and having never seen the target bird before… didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. Didn’t help that it was staying absolutely quiet. This specimen was shockingly accepting of my presence and later Linda’s. It allowed me to walk directly up to it along the path and simply sat there watching my approach. A welcome surprise from most of the birds that see The Beast pointed in their direction.

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

Took a few more shots and decided to bring in the expert for a second opinion. Dropped the glass and just walked right by maybe 4 feet away at the closest. I’ll admit the Monty Python Norwegian Blue sketch did cross my mind (link here). Confirmed, no nails.

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

By the time I found Linda and got her back to the sighting, the specimen had moved to the ground. As you can tell from the shadows, I was not out at an optimum time for snapping pictures. Not only pretty harsh light, but the fact we were in a desert meant any low level shooting would have to struggle through heat foils coming off the sandy ground. I cleaned this second round up as much as possible, but it is what it is. As much as it was bad for the tins, it ended up being critical for the ID.

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

The initial shots from below only provided the eye ring as the key identifier. There was one other detail I needed to confirm and it wasn’t until it went to ground did I finally get the required angle.

“Hey you, the one trying to be all sneaky like, you looking at my ass!?!”

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

“Umm no”

“Yes you were, staring right at it, taking pictures and stuff, you some kind of pervert or ZZ Top fan – ‘I ain’t asking for much, I said, lord, take me [to the desert], I’m just looking for some tush'”

“Actually no, I was just staring at your wing bars.” I think it was disappointed, just saying ha.

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

It gave me a cross look and then flew off. Some birds are just too easily offended (much like society today). All’s well, I had the confirmation I needed. Do you happen to see that buffy/rusty coloring midway up their wing? Well, that feature, the overall coloring and that prominent eye-ring gives it away, this was a Townsend’s Solitaire. I have finally found the bird I’ve been tirelessly searching. Yes, I had turned three shades of green when Brad published his Solitaire encounter (link here).

Townsend's Solitaire found at Desert NWR, Las Vegas NV in March 2023

I can finally cross this species off my life list. Per the usual, want to give you a little background on the Townsend’s. First, they are also members of the Thrush family along with the two Bluebirds featured previously. Townsend’s prefer areas with pines in the 1,000 to 12,000 foot elevation. They primarily feed on the Juniper tree berries during the nonbreeding months before switching to insects, spiders and the like for the frisky months. Like the Bluebirds in this family, they have the ability to hunt on the wing – even fluttering to snack on their winter berries. These birds are extremely territorial and become very aggressive if someone tries to move in on their food supply. Good thing I am not a bird or it might have pulled out a bat and started pummeling me.

Now for the part that intrigued me the most when we saw the eBird listing. Just in case you are not familiar with Las Vegas, it sits near the southern tip of Nevada. I jokingly refer to it as the mouth of the land shark. Desert NWR sits to the north of Vegas proper.

Desert NWR in Nevada Map

Now look at the Solitaire’s region map taken from Cornell. Desert sits just outside their light blue or “scarce” nonbreeding zone.

Townsend's Solitaire region map from Cornell

When I went back to get additional pictures of the Mountain Bluebird, I swung by the area where this Townsend’s was. Easier to find this time as it was FINALLY singing. Pulled out the Merlin Sound ID App and it immediately confirmed my ID was solid.

Hope you enjoyed seeing our latest Thrush. Probably a bit of a letdown after the pretty blues in the recent posts. Take care and see you again when the page turns on the calendar.

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