Sunday, July 25, 2010

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush

My chase wasn't so wild after all, well - at least it was successful. A drive to the Black Hills after work found me arriving in the National Forest camping area after quiet hours had started, and leaving well before they were over. At 5:00 I was at the momentary Mecca of American Birding, the trailhead parking lot for Iron Creek Canyon. I was the second birder on site, and even before I had pulled my gear out we were hearing what we believed to be the song of the very lost Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush. I felt what I was hearing was very similar to what I had heard on Xeno-canto before leaving on my trip - and the other birder didn't recognise the song we were hearing as anything he could place. Unfortunately the canyon kept things far to dark to get visual confirmation for a while. When our first sighting did come our group had grown close to double digits and we were rewarded with several minutes of good looks. These pictures came from those minutes in the 6:00 hour, and everyone had chances to observe the bird through a scope.
I decided to hang around to try for more pictures in the sunlight, as did many others. A few birders left, and more later risers arrived. Regrettably, the calls dried up just before the sun dropped down to the treetops, and the sunlit pictures were not to be for this birder. I headed on to explore a bit more of the Black Hills region after three hours with this most rare visitor. While we stood in the chill morning air waiting for the bird to sing again birders from multiple states introduced themselves. I had the chance to meet many new Colorado birders, who formed a good sized group that morning. Perhaps the biggest surprise was meeting someone from less than five miles from my own home, more than 400 miles away.
All in all, the bird, the people, and the drop-of-a-hat road trip were fantastic. I can't say I will be doing this often, but it is safe to say that I will not forget the Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, or the experience surrounding my sighting of this species anytime soon.

This bird is slightly smaller than a Robin, and does have a rusty colored back. It consistently sang from just below the crowns of deciduous trees, moving up and down the creek as it did so. My last sighting of the bird was just above the parking lot, I didn't get a picture that time because a Swainson's Thrush chased it off before I had a chance.
It is definitely a cool feeling knowing that there is not a more rare bird than the one I was observing, in the United States at that specific time.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats. Been there and done that, but for different birds. This is one I have never seen.

    Isn't birding wonderful!!!!! and blogging.