Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Swainson's Thrush at the Little Miami Bike Trail

I got up early this morning and headed over to the Little Miami Bike Trail hoping to find a few new spring migrants. Rain had been predicted, but instead we woke to sunshine, and the sun kept shining all morning and day! The birds along the river corridor seemed just as happy with the weather and were singing in celebration. So, I knew when I stepped on the trail and immediately saw a Baltimore Oriole singing high up in a Sycamore Tree it would be a very good morning. From that point, the birds just kept coming. I'll post photos over the next couple of days of the birds I found, but tonight I'm devoting the post to a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Swainson's Thrush.

I knew the Yellow-billed Cuckoos were in town because I had read reports of them on the Birding in Cincinnati Web site, but after three and a half hours of seeing and hearing many other birds, the cuckoo was still a no show. Earlier that morning, while eating breakfast, I had read an article by Kenn Kaufman called "Two-and-a-half Cheers for Bird Feeding" in the May/June issue of Bird Watcher's Digest. In it, Kenn had written, "Right now it's early May, and I know...sometime this month, I'll hear Yellow-billed Cuckoos again, chortling in the treetops." So with that info tucked into the back of my mind, I guess I had secretly put the cuckoo on the I-want-to-see-that-bird-and-I-want-to-see-it-now list. I had seen wonderful birds all morning long and was resigned to not seeing the cuckoo, and I thought I was totally cool with it, but as I got closer to the parking lot I noticed a lot of tent caterpillars in the trees and that made "cuckoo" pop back into my head. "Cuckoos love tent caterpillars..." was the thought forming in my mind when I saw a silhouette that made my heart jump. No way! I totally felt adrenalin surge right through my body as a positive ID registered in my brain. (I hate to admit it, but that "discovery" adrenalin feeling is pleasantly addictive.) Finally, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo for me.








...now...as if that wasn't good enough, after he got tired of my clicking camera, he flew over my head in the tree above me and made that crazy knock, knock sound, which thrilled me...BUT...then I heard a musical little water drop plop sound. It's a very distinctive sound (more like a "sound effect" than a actual bird's song). As I searched through the brush and bushes by the river, I saw him. A Thrush! I've often heard Wood Thrushes (they were singing their exquisitely beautiful song all morning), but this was not a Wood Thrush. This was a Swainson's Thrush. I've heard a Swainson's Thrush singing on the trail only three times in the last two years. Their song is even more beautiful than the Wood Thrush's song, so I always record when I've heard it. The Wood Thrushes sing on the slopes of the hill, but the Swainson's song comes from the brushy areas closer to the river in the hidden hollows. Adrenalin surge, click...alright!

Swainson's Thrush

23 comments:

Kallen305 said...

Isn't spring so exciting!!!!! I love your cuckoo picture and the wood thrush. I saw my first wt this past week but couldn't get close enough for a photo nearly as good as the one you have. It sounds like you had a wonderful day of birds. Can't wait to see the rest of them.

JRandSue said...

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo and your Swainson's Thrush are fantastic Images.Great blog Kelly.

hillybillyfarmgirl said...

Hi Kelly, I totaly agree on what you wrote about that "discovery" adrenaline feeling, it IS addictive!
Great pictures and more to come..! Oh Boy, looking forward to that. ;-)
Thank you for visitin my blog and your kind words, dein Deutsch ist ja hervorragend!
:))

Kathy said...

Kelly wow those are some really great shots of the cuckoos. Its neat you can tell what bird is what by the soounds they make. If my eyesight was so darn bad I would love to go bird watching. Hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

Laure Ferlita said...

Love the photots of the cuckcoo - they tropical! And I can't help you id the thrush, but oh, what a thrill it must have been!

No wonder it's addicting!

Warren Baker said...

Yep, the adrenaline rush is the best high you can get. Well done on your latest migrant sightings, I hope you find a real mega one !

Jayne said...

What great sightings Kelley! I love that Cuckoo, and went to All About Birds to listen to his call.

I've only ever had a Hermit Thrush, so can't help on the positive ID. How exciting!

Mary said...

These are wonderful! I've never seen a cuckoo...what a stunning bird! Excellent photos. Great thrush, too.

Montanagirl said...

The Cuckoo photos are fantastice. You're so lucky to have seen him! I've never seen one before. The Thrush photo is good too. Nice captures!

E said...

Very lovely cuckoo, Kelly, glad you could catch him with your camera. Beautiful pics. Hugs.

Vickie said...

Love your cuckoo images and fun to experience it along with you.

I would call your thrust a Swainson's also. I'm new at distinguishing the thrushes but it lacks the reddish tail of the hermit thrush and has the buffy characteristic. I love the Swainson's song too.

holdingmoments said...

I could feel your excitement as I read that. Great post Kelly, and beautiful pictures too.

Ginnymo said...

What great shots you got Kelly. Beautiful birds!!

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
Well it looks like it is really spring over there. You got a very idea to go tout and saw many nice birds and got some nice pictures. I cannot do that for the moment, as Iceland became icy again!!

The Early Birder said...

Blood pumping & pulse racing in anticipation of a new find...there isn't a better feeling. Fab photos of the Cuckoo, another new one for me. Thanks Kelly.
After referring to Sibley, I'd go with you on Swainson's.

Heather said...

Aha! I see you finally found a Cuckoo! Very cool. I remember when I saw one for the first time last year I almost fell down - I had no idea cuckoos nested in this part of the country... they somehow seem too exotic to me. I still haven't actually seen my cuckoo yet, but did hear him last week.
BTW, you asked me about International Migratory Bird Day. It's the 2nd Saturday of May, and lots of parks and nature centers use it (along with other weekends in May) as an opportunity to do programs for the public about migrating birds. Lake Hope always does a bird walk on that day, for example, and I'm sure lots of other parks will be doing the same. For more info, go to birdday.org.

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly
I can understand your excitementoover a Yellow Billed Cuckoo. It is a attractive bird. I am glad you got to find it, and see it. Lovely photo's Kelly.
Thank you for your comment on my blog.

Uncommon Depth said...

Very pretty birds - both of them. You must have quick reflexes to get that Thrush. At least if they're anything like the Varied Thrush we have, they won't remain in view for more than a few seconds.

Steve B said...

Nice! Cuckoos are few and far in between.

Kelly said...

Kim...yes, I'm loving it!! Thanks!

JR&Sue...thank you!

Farmgirl...I had a little more of that "Adrenalin" today. Totally addictive.

Kathy....slowly I'm learning more of their songs. Birding by ear opens a lot of doors. I know what's there before I can see it, so i know where to look...strange but fun!

Laure..they are tropical looking. Very strange to see them in our area!

Thanks, Warren....I do too...that would send the adrenalin off the charts!

Jayne....I can't believe I've lived 47 years and never saw one before...and they're in our area regularly!

Thanks, Mary and Montanagirl!

Enita....thank you...hugs!

Thanks, Vickie....yes, it's a Swainson's...everyone agreed. I went back to the trail tonigiht and this time I heard and saw him!!

Thanks you very much, Keith!!

Thanks, Ginny!

Chris...are you ever going to get away from the ice? I guess...it is Iceland!

Thanks, Frank. Yes, I'm a junkie for the New Bird Rush...and that's good!! I'm just surprised how much of a junkie I am... :-D

Heather...I agree...they seem too darn Exotic to be around here! Thanks...and thank for the info on the International Birding thing...

Thanks, Ken....We all seem to be finding or looking for cuckoos right now (the joke of being cuckoo is too easy, but I've heard it from my friends!)

Uncommon....I think I was just lucky. I saw two Veerys today and couldn't capture them! Thanks...

Steve...thank you! First time I've ever seen one...

Little Brown Job said...

Lovely images of the Cuckoo Kelly. I've heard our version yet, only ever seen one once.

Kelly said...

Paul...I heard ours only once before, and Sat was the first time for me to see him too. I was back on Sunday, but didn't see him! Thanks...

Rene said...

Love the tail feathers on that cuckoo. I'm sure some people may think that thrush's are ordinary looking, but I think they are just so cute.