Though no longer a "robin," this Clay-colored Thrush
still looks like one. Ignore that green bill, delicate
coloring, and lack of eyering. In black and white or sepia,
you'd say "American Robin."
I've done it again, though I made a New Year's Resolution not to--let two whole weeks pass since my last post.
I really wanted to do better this year as far as frequency of posts goes. Yes, there are excuses: we spent a few days visiting grandchildren, and we've had a week since of gray drizzle, even temperatures in the 40's and 50's--but I still resolve to do better by my blog and birds!
Enough of the excuses: here's the yard news for my delinquent two weeks.
|Look closely and you'll see the little red berries this |
frugivorous bird is foraging for in the leaf litter under
a Brazilian Pepper tree.
Until a few years ago, Clay-colored Thrushes were Clay-colored "Robins." I imagine the reason the name changed is that even our American Robin is not a true robin. The red-breasted bird was called "robin" by English settlers in America after the familiar red-breasted robin of England, even though the American version is clearly a thrush, looking much more like Europe's Common Blackbird or Song Thrush than a true robin.
|A European Robin perches on a|
spade in Peter Rabbit's garden.
I was delighted to see the European version of a Robin when I visited England and Scotland a few years ago. A cheerful little bird in appearance as well as song, it reminded me of illustrations in my favorite children's books. When a robin perched on the window sill at Beatrix Potter's home, I was transported back in imagination to Peter Rabbit's garden. (The trip to England and Scotland was my life's dream vacation not only because of the children's books I loved, but also because I had taught English Literature for several decades before I retired.)
American Robins are so beloved of Americans that I doubt the American Ornithologists' Union (in their official checklist of birds) would ever change the name, but the rarer tropical Clay-colored Thrush, White-throated Thrush, and Rufous-backed Thrush all had name-changes a few years ago, dropping the misleading "robin" part of their names for the scientifically accurate "thrush." These are all tropical birds of Mexico and Central America; in fact, the Clay-colored Thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica. In the 90's the Clay-colored version of what we called "robin" started showing up more often north of the Mexican/US border (that's when we had our first visitor) and even nested in a few parks and refuges in the Rio GrandeValley, though not in our yard. It's one of those birds that seem to show up where the birders are--which makes me pretty sure they have been more common than we suspect. I don't think they recognize human borders. It's just not an accident that they hang out in the same parks where birders hang out. I think they are in lots of yards when no one is looking.
Estero Llano Grande park, about twenty minutes west of Harlingen in Weslaco, Texas, to see a White-throated Thrush that is attracting birders who want to tick this tropical thrush off their life lists. I had seen them in Belize and Mexico but this was my first in the US. It was easy to spot--we just looked for the other birders gathered under the tree where it was feeding.
The White-throated Thrush is darker and grayer than the Clay-colored, looking a little more like an American Robin to me. I really love the coloring of the Clay-colored Thrush. Its delicate brown is unique but reminds me somewhat of the shades of a female Northern Cardinal or Pyrruloxia. The latter two birds seem to be always in the vicinity of the thrush in our yard. Of course, the yard is not large, but I have been seeing these two species, along with the light brown Curve-billed Thrasher, under the neighbor's Brazilian Pepper tree and along our driveway. It's as if someone said, "Okay, all you light brown birds, line up over here!"
|A Pyrrhuloxia (female) hides in a grapefruit tree|
|A female Northern Cardinal's delicate coloring|
is to me even more beautiful than its bright mate's.
Finally, the best bird I've seen in the last two weeks was not in the yard at all. It was in the Art Show at my granddaughter's school. For her submission to the show, Sadie drew an Indigo Bunting that she had seen in her yard last spring.
So one of my excuses for not reporting on the yard activities for a couple of weeks is valid. Even better than watching birds is being with our grandchildren: Sadie, her look-alike baby sister Jacey, and her three older brothers drew us away from the yard and up to their home for a few days. A year ago I posted a picture of the baby who had interrupted first-week-of-the-year birding last year. See how much she's grown (and how much she loved her first birthday cake) in the photo below. I'm always ready to leave the banks of the Arroyo if I can see such beauty elsewhere. I don't even have to use binoculars!
From brown birds to red-headed granddaughters, it's been a good two weeks. Today the sun came out for the first time in a week. Its slanting rays just before sunset tinted the banks of the Arroyo Colorado a golden brown. Life is good.
Post script (Monday): Visiting our daughter's family requires us to drive north about six hours, but at least we are still in Texas where it is reasonably warm. To visit our other two beautiful twin granddaughters, we drive considerably further to Missouri where winter weather can bring cold and snow. Here's a photo I received today of their sledding fun over the weekend. They, too, are lovely enough to tempt us out of our south Texas yard for a while. At their house over Christmas holidays we watched American Robins bathe in melted snow. Now after a week of Missouri temperatures in single digits, maybe those robins are winging their way to the Rio Grande Valley to join their Clay-colored cousins. I wish our granddaughters could also migrate here for a visit.