Sunday, March 7, 2021

Varied Thrush: Dearborn and Wayne County records

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) is one of my favorite birds. Not just lovely to look at, but also listen to, if you happen to be within the breeding range of the species which is centered more or less in the Pacific Northwest. There are four records of Varied Thrush in Wayne County, two of which are from Dearborn. I'll start there, of course.

Dearborn's first Varied Thrush was a one-day wonder, a female along the edge of the Edsel Ford High School campus found by Jim Fowler, Jr. on 16 April 2004. It was only seen by a handful of us because as I recall it was late afternoon when it was found and we couldn't relocate it the next day. It's possible it was present before or after in the adjacent residential yards or just across Rotunda in the little woodlot on Ford engineering property.

Varied Thrush: 1st Dearborn record, 3rd Wayne Co. record,
16 April 2004. Photo by Darrin O'Brien

A much more cooperative bird showed up on 12 February 2021 at the feeders of a couple whose yard backs up against the Dearborn Hills Golf Course. The homeowners initially let birders come to view the bird from the side of the house, but after only a few hours the situation grew out hand. Observers were directed to the golf course, where on weekdays one can walk a half mile or so on a perimeter trail and look for the bird. It was still present on 4 March 2021, although not everyone is successful in seeing it, especially if care is taken not to aim binoculars or spotting scopes straight into backyards or kitchen windows. 

Varied Thrush: 2nd Dearborn record, 4th Wayne Co. record,
16 February 2021. Photo by Mike O'Leary

There are two previous Wayne County records for Varied Thrush. The first was a bird present from 9 to 31 March 1971 in Rouge Park near the old Nature Center (once at the southwest corner of W. Chicago and Outer Drive). This was found by Detroit birding legend Ernie Carhart (1911-1997), whose lived nearby and whose favorite birding spot was Rouge Park. All Wayne County, and especially Detroit, birders owe much to Ernie; here is a little write-up and photo of Ernie by Karl Overman (another pretty legendary guy).

And finally, a Varied Thrush was at the home of Rosann Kovalcik and her (then) husband Martin Blagdurn in Grosse Pointe Woods from 3 to 15 December 2000. My (then future) husband Darrin O'Brien and I were among the many people who sat in Rosann and Martin's bedroom looking out the window, waiting for this bird to show up at the feeders. We missed it on our visit, but we did get our picture in the paper because it got some good press coverage.

Although their home range is far, far away from Michigan, Varied Thrushes tend to wander a great deal and I'm a little surprised there are not more Wayne County records. This is one of the roughly 60 species in the county of which there are 5 or fewer records. 

That's out of 344 county species I have documented over the past 30 years or so (including historical records).  I am not sure I have the energy to publish a fully annotated checklist with citations to county birds, but I might -- if there is interest -- do one on the rarer species one of these days.