Yesterday evening (19 May, 2012), my wife and I were slowly driving through neighborhoods in Eldorado, TX in search of common city birds that aren’t always easily located in the arid landscapes of West Texas. We wanted to find things like Blue Jay, Rock Pigeon, and American Robin, for our Schleicher County list. (We’re doing the Texas Century Club, trying to see 100 or more species in 100 different counties of Texas.)
As we drove through one neighborhood, I heard a song that I immediately took for an American Robin. At least until it started throwing in some phrases that most certainly weren’t American Robin. I assumed it was a Northern Mockingbird doing a damn good impression of an American Robin. I noticed a bird sitting on the top of a planter in a front yard that appeared to be the source of the sound. The light wasn’t good and the bird was distant, but I noticed it had a pale throat. I also had a brief impression that the bill was olive-colored, and for an instant, Clay-colored Thrush entered my mind. This thought was so fleeting, so vague, that I immediately dismissed such an absurd notion and wrote off my impression as careless birding.
That is until I turned in front of the house and set my binoculars on a Clay-colored Thrush, in all it’s drab glory. I had left my good camera and telephoto lens at home (of course) but was able to digiscope a number of satisfactory shots.
So, where was this masterpiece of thrushdom found? The bird was originally seen in the front yard of 209 E Redwood St, Eldorado, TX. He flew (much to my distress since I hadn’t gotten an acceptable picture at this point) but was eventually refound in the front yard directly across the street, 208 E Redwood St. The thrush interacted several times with an American Robin, foraging beside it and then getting chased off by it at one point.
The GPS coordinates to this location are 30.867886, -100.602359. Here’s a Google map to help as well. It’s not far off Hwy 277. As always, please be respectful and courteous to the neighbors if you go look for the bird.
One possibility that deserves brief discussion is the origin of the bird. Since Clay-colored Thrushes are sometimes the victim of illegal smuggling as caged birds from Latin America, there’s always the possibility when one turns up, it’s not there on its own accord. To this I simply point out that this is a species that breeds in Texas and is rapidly expanding its range northward. It has increasing turned up in unexpected places east of (along the coast) and north of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. There are at least a couple of records to the south of Eldorado in Uvalde County. Add to the fact that the bird shows no abrasion to its tail feathers or wings, and I say its more likely a wild bird than a caged.
To my knowledge, this is the first record for Schleicher County and a very northern record for a species that is rapidly moving north. Clay-colored Thrushes may breed in Amarillo by the time I’m an old man, but for now, it was a very exciting find.