Monday, February 15, 2010

LeContes Revisted

A couple of years ago I went looking for a LeConte's Thrasher in Arizona. As I noted in my description of that endeavor, I wouldn't mind heading back to see them again.

Friday morning I was able to head back to the thrasher site. I anticipated finding singing thrashers this time since I was visiting during the time of the year when they would be expected to be setting up territories and courting. No such luck. I couldn't hear anything singing over the traffic noise on the nearby highway as the sun broke over the Phoenix smog to the east and lit up the steam rising from the nearby nuclear power plant to the west. Not exactly a pristine birding experience, but this is where I knew the thrashers could be found. I wandered around the area for quite a while, watching the Sage Sparrows dart from shrub to shrub with their tails in the air as the White-crowned Sparrows flitted around. I saw one Sage Thrasher obviously molting and a few Anna's Hummingbird moving around the tops of the creosote bushes.

I was just about to call it a morning when I thought I saw a thrasher dart under a shrub. I waited and sure enough, it was what I had hoped to see. I shadowed the bird as it foraged from one shrub to the next.

Most of my observations were the bird running across the open ground. What is it with this posture in desert birds? Tail up and darting across the ground - Sage Sparrow, LeConte's Thrashers, and Roadrunners all have this same look.

I found at least two thrashers working through the shrubs. At one point I watched one of the birds thrashing through some loamy soil at the base of a saltbush.

It would bury it's bill to the base in the dirt and move it back and forth looking for some invertebrate morsel.

It's eyes would close when the bill was buried to the base.

I watched the bird forage for a while and then it moved off to the next shrub. I followed the bird for a bit longer and it eventually jumped up on a low branch and sat there for a while, giving me a good look. Then it was time for me to head back to the hotel, gather our goods, and say goodbye to the desert again. For now.

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