Friday, May 3, 2013

Nesting Brown Thrashers



BROWN THRASHER

Toxostoma: rufum                  Order: PASSERIFORMES                 Family: MIMIDAE


I’ve come to rely on them…. the brown thrashers.  They are like dear old friends, returning each spring to the same tree to sing their peppy and spirited song… and to the same tangled mess of shrubbery to raise their family.  I like having them around, that’s for sure!



Brown Thrashers are a funny bird.  Along with mockingbirds and catbirds, they belong to the “mimic group”.  They imitate the song of others, though not as impressively as the mockingbird.  They sing in fast little bursts… repeating each phrase twice.  Some people claim the brown thrasher announces the garden planting time with their song: “drop it, drop it… plant it, plant it…. In the dirt, in the dirt”.  Mnemonic devices (applying human words to bird songs) are fun and make for an easy way to recognize and identify birds by ear while in the field.



Our thrasher typically arrives sometime in mid-April.  He sings from the top of a cherry tree announcing his territory and intentions of nesting.  

Last year, like every year, the thrasher family once again chose a very thick tangle of thorny shrubs for their nest.  The nest was large (the thrasher is a tad larger than a robin), and about four feet off the ground.  I was worried that it would be too accessible to prey, but then I remembered that the VERY sharp thorns provide adequate protection.  I have tried to get close to the nest in the past for study purposes, but the thorns tore my skin and my clothing.  Those smart birds know what they’re doing when they choose the razor sharp thorn bush as their home.  Last year’s successful nest fledged four babies.





This year, the thrashers moved their nest to the neighboring thorny shrub, about ten feet away from last year’s site. Mama is already on the nest and things are going well.  I don’t know how many eggs she has because the nest is so well protected with thorns that I am unable to get close to it.  She sits tight and watches me like a hawk, er uh.. thrasher!  She won’t budge and holds perfectly still.  I try not to stress her and give her adequate space and respect.  My zoom lens allows me to get close without being physically close.  Yet, she is still watchful and cautious! 



Do you see Mama Thrasher in the above photo?  Look very CLOSELY!!  She is a master of camouflage and holds perfectly still.  Doesn't this make you wonder how many times you have walked  RIGHT PAST a bird's nest without realizing it!?

Brown Thrashers have yellow eyes.  That is what I look for when trying to locate a nest in a tangle of thorns.  I know that I won't be able to see her body, as it is perfectly blended, but her watchful eye will catch my attention.


 Look at that tail!!  I love her form.  If she were an Olympic athlete in the event of nest sitting, I'd give her a 10!  Such beauty, poise, and grace! 


I hope the nest will be a success!  It is a little behind last year’s timeline, but that’s okay as the spring has been cold and fickle. 


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