Monday, August 22, 2011

Hermit Thrush

Hermit is a good name for this skulking Thrush. Hermit Thrushes have a very pleasant, somewhat melancholy song and prefer to feed in the leaf litter underneath thick shady trees. They're soft, spotted, and polite, yet also fairly inquisitive within their small domains. I don't see them that often in Arizona, and their preference for shade can make them tricky to photograph. Rather oddly, the best opportunity I've had thus far came at the Desert Botanical Gardens.

This first shot summarizes the bird well--close to the light but never fully illuminated.

Like finches and sparrow, Thrushes have something very appealing in their simple colors, but unique and intricate plumage.

Here is the diagnostic rufous tail, the surest way to tell the Hermit Thrush apart from other, similar looking Thrushes.

They're compact and have good posture. It's a small little niche they inhabit, but it's always a pleasure to enter into the Thrush's world.

Canada Goose

The Canada Goose has become one of the most common and easily recognizable geese in North America, and that is fine with me. They're better behaved and more aesthetically pleasing than most other geese, even if they are becoming a bit of a nuisance in certain areas. They used to only winter in the southern states and spend their Summers between the Arctic and Minnesota, but now they're in Phoenix year-round.

This may be the saddest looking goose I've ever seen, but he did live on a golf course so he'll be ok.

Great Blue Heron

The tallest and most common of Herons, the Great Blue lends a certain dignity and calmness to whatever lake, pond, swamp, or mud flat he visits. They can surpass 4 feet in height, and fish expertly with their dagger-like beaks and serpentine necks, always coiled to strike. Despite their impressive physical presence, they're pretty skittish. I've rarely gotten within ideal photo range before they take off, and then they act all indignant and let out their grunt call while they retreat, even though it would probably beat me in a fight.

Notice one of his feet is actually curled up next to his gut. I'm not sure how he fit that legs up that high, but what goes on behind the belly feathers of a Great Blue Heron is one of Nature's greater mysteries.

White-Winged Dove

Despite what the bird books may say, these doves are bigger than Mourning Doves. I don't know if there is a great debate about such things, but I've seen some bird books place the Mourning Dove at 12 inches and the White-Winged Dove at 11. I think both numbers are a bit generous, and White-Winged Doves certainly appear bulkier, and also usually win out when wrestling for the best spot on the feeder.

They much prefer the arid regions of the U.S. and Mexico, however, and seldom venture beyond Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California/Nevada. They're common enough on telephone wires in Arizona, but only during the hot months of spring and summer.
Their tails are rounded on the end, unlike the Mourning Dove's, and they shows their namesake white wing-bars when in flight, and along their flank when their wings are folded.

Chinese Goose

Also known as the Swan Goose, this once rare inhabitant of Mongolia and Northern China has since been domesticated and distributed throughout the United States. They can crossbreed with the Graylag goose, the most common (and also introduced) goose to be found in North America behind the Snow Goose and Canadian Goose.
I don't care for Geese. They're disheveled, mean, overly messy, and often ugly. These geese also resemble the two-headed dragon monster that Val Kilmer slays in the movie Willow. Don't believe me? I pasted some photos below for comparison. Their attitude matches as well.