Friday, December 21, 2012

A Very Varied Day

Wednesday was the kind of day Natalie and I have not enjoyed in quite a while.  A little of this. A little of that.  Changing gears all day. Good fun.  When a super bird showed up a few hours from Downriver, we based our day on seeing it.

The Varied Thrush.  What a slick looking bird.  Found in dense, pine forests in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,  one bird ended up in the little town of Nashville, Michigan.  As they so often do when located away from the Pacific Time Zone, it was visiting a feeder at a home.   The owners opened their yard to visitors, allowing them to immediately become the new best friends of Michigan birders everywhere.  

Check this map out.  

Now you can check this out and see just how lost this bird is.....

Except he might not be so lost.....
I seem to remember reading some time ago about the winter habits of the Varied Thrush.

Generally speaking, different bird species tend to winter in very finite regions.  Depending on the speices, that region could be a coastal area that spans hundreds (or thousands) of miles, entire sections of continent, or even entire countries (like the tropics, for example).

Looking at the range map, it clearly shows that the bird will over winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Apparently, however, it might not be that simple.  

Instead of "lots of birds" wintering in "smaller areas", it appears that the Varied Thrush will fan out across the country, as well.  One could make the argument that the winter range is basically North America.  Michigan probably has dozens (hundreds?) of records.  So it is that weird combination of "rare, but give it some time, and one will show up near you....."  

In addition to the excitement of seeing a rare bird, I think this little chase really is one of the reasons I enjoy birding.  Seeing a particular bird brings back memories of other trips, locations, and events.

My notes show that I have seen Varied Thrush only a few times.  Alaska, Montana, and even Michigan (many years ago).  

But for some reason, the Washington record sticks in my mind.  In 2011, I was visiting Rebecca in the Northwest. We took the day and went to Mount Rainier.  Descending the mountain at dinner time, a single bird flew across the road and landed on the shoulder.  My one and only Varied Thrush for the trip. 

It's neat how memories work like that... 

Anyhow, after a mid-morning departure, Natalie and I arrived on site by early lunch time.  Per the homeowner's instructions, we parked on the driveway so we could view both feeders that the bird had been frequenting.  Over a span of perhaps an hour, it appeared twice.  Total viewing time? I dunno...maybe seven or eight minutes.

With poor to moderate photos in the bag (seen above with a Blue Jay), it was time to press on for a quick lunch in Nashville and some easy Christmas shopping in Charlotte.  (By the way, the locals pronounce it "shar-LOT", as opposed to "SHAR-lit".  Okay. Whatever they say.  Did I tell you I live in "Woh-OD-HA-vin".  The locals call it "Woodhaven".)

Afterwards, it was time to move along to Battle Creek.  With dinner plans set for 5:20 (I'm serious - 5:20), almost two hours needed be knocked off, so Natalie and I opted to head to Arcadia Brewing Company to knock one back.

The MGB 15 (#1,377) is a double-IPA brewed up by Arcadia for the Michigan Brewer's Guild that took place this past summer in Ypsilanti. It was the 15th one.  Hence the name.   In short, if you loath bitter beers, this will kill you.  Me?  I liked it.  4 out of 5.

Dinner time was social time.  Josh and Kara Haas took the bun out of oven 10 months ago.  Lillian nibbled on her Cheerios while the rest of us struggled to understand the accent of the waiter at A Taste Of India.  As a general rule, we found nodding and smiling to be the best form of communication.  For the record, Chicken Tandoori is quite good if you are concerned about nuclear-levels of Indian spices.  

We did not record a Kingfisher on our journey.  Imagine our surprise when we found one right in the restaurant. Kingfisher (#1,378) dates back almost 100 years.  After a Scotsman combined five Indian breweries into one massive operation, Kingfisher grew to become one of the most popular beers in India.  I liken it to people making Budweiser one of the popular beers in the United States.  Um...why? Three out of five.  Barely.....

So that was the day.  Birding. Friends.   Beers.  Some Christmas shopping. All low key.

A very varied day.

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