Toad in the Hole

June 15, 2006

Home Again; D'ja Miss Me?

We just rolled in, well, about an hour and a half ago at 7:30PM-ish, from up da coast; spent a couple of days there apropos of something Joe's working on. I'll get all lyrical about it tomorrow, but man, it was nice to be somewhere where Homo saps aren't so thick on the ground; to sit still for an hour or so and hear absolutely nothing but the drop of water from the trees, the occasional breeze, and birdsong.

We sat on the front porch of the motel room in Redcrest the first evening, watching the weather and sipping bourbon and listening. There was audible traffic but not a constant hum from 101, rare passers-by on the Avenue of the Giants, which the motel fronts at maybe a hundred yards' distance, and the water noise from a fake-rustic fountain in front of the building. (Water pump and two half-barrels.) A few notes from what sounded more like a Swainson's thrush than the hermit thrush you'd expect there, and then a varied thrush.

A varied thrush looks rather like a robin with rank: add orange wingbars and a black chevron over the orangey breast, and a bit of facial pattern. Tail's a bit shorter. They feed on the ground like robins, and breed up there in the redwoods; we see them here in winter. They sing pretty much only on the breeding grounds, unlike robins and, say, white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrows, who warm up for a week or more here in their winter home before migrating.

That song. If you're too close it might sound like squeaky brakes. But just fifty, a hundred feet
away, it takes on the forest's echo and hangs like jewels in its soft deep acoustics. It's the ultimate pared-down, abstracted thrush song: just one, then another minor-key note, each drawn out just a little, just enough to luxuriate in its echo and then die, and an instant of silence to frame the next note. This bird has wabi-sabi down to perfection.

Posted at June 15, 2006 05:05 AM


Wabi-sabi: I hadn't thought of it like that before. Great image.

Any tips on breeding Hammond's flycatchers this year? It's been a weird spring and I have a friend arriving tomorrow from Boston...

Posted by: Pica at June 15, 2006 02:38 PM

Hammond's flycatchers? John W.? Joe? Feel free to chime in here.

I'm still thinking Yuba Pass/Sierra Valley/Lakes Basin -- Sardine Lake at al. Things will be blooming too. Pack the bug repellent.

Posted by: Ron at June 15, 2006 07:53 PM

Sorry, I had meant to get back to you about the Hammond's flycatchers. John Kemper's Birding Northern California says they're summer residents at Lily Pond in Lassen NP, although I've never seen them there in several visits. Nothing in my accessible field notes about Lassen sightings. Just learned that Hammond's nest in northeastern Humboldt County, according to the recently published Humboldt breeding bird atlas.

Posted by: Joe Eaton at June 15, 2006 08:02 PM