Hermit thrushes abound on latest bird walk

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods .

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hermit Thrush perches on a branch at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods .

I can’t speak for how well the Hermit Thrush population is doing in general, but the last bird walk I took yielded a lot of these handsome birds. I was walking through Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien (Conn.) with my buddy Larry Flynn and the thrushes were by far the most commonly seen bird. At one point we had five or six Hermit Thrushes in one bush. I’ve seen plenty of Hermit Thrushes in my day, but never that many in the same bush.

As we walked along the trails, Hermit Thrushes popped up here and there, and pretty much everywhere. The birds, however, were silent — other than their little feet rustling among the fallen leaves. They didn’t sing their famous flute-like song because it’s the fall migration. During the breeding season (spring and summer) it’s a treat to hear their song echo throughout the woods.

I mentioned before than I can’t speak for how the population is doing overall. Well, that was a white lie because I can, at least by crediting another source. Hermit Thrushes, thankfully, are doing well as a species. In fact their numbers have been rising since 1966, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

Hermit Thrushes are probably the most commonly seen thrush in New England, but there are several types of thrushes — and they can be very difficult to tell apart. The Wood Thrush and Veery look somewhat different than the Hermit Thrush and are fairly easy to differentiate. However, species such as Bicknell’s Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-checked Thrush pose a tougher ID challenge and it takes a trained eye to pick out those species.

Larry and I are pretty certain that what we were seeing were all Hermit Thrushes. The next walk, however, may yield nary a Hermit Thrush. That’s the joy of migration — and birding in general.

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