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Thrushes on the trail

When I heard the fluting, ethereal song coming from the trees of the Dinosaur Trail, I knew it was one of the thrushes. There had been a couple of Swainson’s and gray-cheeked thrushes near the entrance to the trail for a few days now. The birds were layovers on their way north to their breeding areas.

Though I heard it, and thought sure it was a Swainson’s thrush, I wanted to see it. I wanted to confirm my birdsong interpretation skills and, well, I just wanted to see a Swainson’s thrush. If one lives on the Piedmont of the Carolinas one only gets a few weeks in the fall and spring to catch a glimpse of this and some of the other thrushes.

All year resident, eastern bluebird.
American robins can bee seen throughout the year.

There are a few thrushes which are here all year long, the eastern bluebird, and American robin. There’s one which is only here during the breeding season, the wood thrush, and one that winters here, the hermit thrush. There are several which migrate through like the gray-cheeked thrush, Swainson’s thrush, and veery.

Summer resident, wood thrush.
Winter only, hermit thrush.

If you want to see any of the last three in the above list you have to be outside watching and listening for them during, let’s say April – May and then again in September – October. Even though they save their best songs for their arrival on the breeding grounds, they at least give us a tease during their brief stop-overs on their northward journeys in spring. Their hormones are flowing and their songs are being rehearsed. They won’t, however, be singing in the fall.

Transient gray-cheeked thrush (note gray cheeks).
Swainson’s thrush, migrant only (note buff colored cheeks and eye-ring).

It’s always a thrill to hear the thrushes sing their songs each spring, and sometimes frustrating to find the birds in the fully leafed-out trees of May.