Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hermit Thrushes on the Move & More Fall Colors

The Fall Domain of the Hermit Thrush
Lately in our woods, small groups of migrant Hermit Thrushes have been showing up. Sometimes they are seen in conjunction with larger flocks of Robins, but more often they are on their own. The Hermits are rather plain looking birds –with grayish brown backs and light colored breasts that are heavily spotted with dark brown. Their tails are somewhat ruddier in color than their backs, and from a distance this helps to distinguish this thrush from several similar species. But typically, in Upstate New York, any brown thrush seen this late in the season will be a Hermit Thrush. 
One of a half-dozen Hermit Thrushes seen in the woods yesterday

The Hermit Thrush can also be distinguished from other thrushes by its habit of tail dipping. This is when the bird, in a perched position, slowly lifts and then drops its tail –a bit like a teeter-totter. This action is usually only performed when the bird is alarmed
The Hermit's tail is redder than its back
Our woodland thrushes are considered by many to be among the most accomplished singers in the songbird community, and the Hermit Thrush is the favorite of most. Unfortunately, like most birds, they don’t tend to sing this late in the year. In fall the only sounds you will hear from them will be a small repertoire of alarm calls and contact notes. One of the most recognizable of these call notes is a long and rather reedy whistled note that sounds a bit like the birds are saying “way”.
The Hermit Thrush has a heavily spotted breast
When feeding, the Hermit behaves very much as other thrushes do. They may be seen eating fruit off of trees and vines, but more often they will be seen on the forest floor hunting for worms and insects. Their hunting technique is very similar to that used by their cousin, and fellow thrush, the Robin; the Hermit will run in a short spurt on the forest floor, abruptly stop, jerk its head from side to side and then plunge its beak to the ground to snap up a meal. At this time of year when the forest floor is covered with leaves, the thrushes can be seen turning over leaves to search for creatures that may be scurrying beneath.
The Hermit Thrush hunts for insects on the forest floor
The flock of Hermits that I found today didn’t exactly seem to be living together in peace and harmony. Indeed, there was a lot of rivaly on display. Likely, these are birds that have just recently joined up together for the purpose of migration, and they are still establishing some kind of pecking order.To see a video made of Spring Farm's very own Hermit Thrushes click on this link: Hermit Thrush Video
The Oak trees in our reforestation fields are very colorful right now
Though many of our deciduous trees have now lost most of their leaves, there is still a lot of color in the forests and reforestation fields. Some of our Oak trees are really looking nice now, as they turn various shades of brown, red and orange. Most of the young Tulip Trees are bright yellow and some of the smaller bushes and shrubs like Silky Dogwood have gone shades of burgundy and deep purple.
Some colorful foliage on a Red Oak
Our young Tulip Trees have turned very bright yellow this year
Silky Dogwood at the edge of a small wetland
A Virginia Creeper vine grows up the trunk of a Sugar Maple in the old woods

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