Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Zoothera hunt

OK, I promised myself to move away from gulls for the time being, as I guess not everyone wants to read about them!

This Varied Thrush was a big highlight from our trip to Vancouver Island earlier in the year. Its one of those species we weren't sure we were going to see, especially as most trip reports for the area neglect to mention it.

As it happens they were common on the west side of the island - common by voice that is! I'd pre-loaded my iphone with some of the calls before we left England so I knew roughly what to listen out for. This birds call haunted the tall evergreen coastal forests, but it quickly became an enigma as we just couldn't see it in the huge growth. They would sing from the very tops of the trees and when they moved they'd go quickly without us noticing.

Several early mornings were spent creeping round trails hoping we'd catch one feeding on the ground. We failed. On our last morning in the Tofino area we had one last crack. Two hours later, and with breakfast and our girlfriends waiting for us, it was time to go. The rain that morning had been pretty persistent and loads of American Robins were feeding on worms along the road sides. A split-decision by me to 'try one last place' while driving back ended the agony.

As there so many Robins feeding on the roadsides I drove down towards a lovely little bay, and along a very little used road as it goes no-where. As we drove slowly along it there were Robins everywhere. We must have seen over 40 individuals coming off the roadsides. Mark and I were checking carefully as we inched along.

"VARIED THRUSH!" went the shout as Mark's sharp eye picked one out as it flew up to a bush by the roadside. I craned my neck to peer out of the back window and there it was, bouncing on a flimsy stem, then flicked its wings and in to the forest. Awesome!

A few minutes later, once we had calmed down, we moved along to see if we could find it again. Almost without believing our eyes we re-found it further along the road, but this time fully out in the open at the car park at the end of the road! We knew we were pushing our luck with the ladies, so we spent a few minutes absorbing this beautiful bird and comparing it to the Robins alongside, before heading back to Tofino elated.

If you want to know exactly where we saw this bird, click here.

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