Recently, sitting on the back deck, my wife and I watched a pair of Eastern Bluebirds checking out the nest boxes we have in our field. Several American Robins probed the grass close to the house in search of worms. And, as the sun started to set, the forest around us came alive with the flute-like song of three Hermit Thrushes. They took turns singing their chorus. A robin added its song, and the bluebird couple occasionally contributed a bubbly call. We sat frozen. It was a private symphony in our own backyard.
All three of these songsters are in the thrush family. Four other thrushes, sometimes referred to as spotted thrushes, are known to nest in the Mahoosuc region. Along with the Hermit Thrush (photo by Matt MacGillivray), these include the Wood Thrush, Veery and the less common Swainson’s and Bicknell’s Thrush. If you don’t know the song of these birds, search for recordings online. The American Robin and Hermit Thrush are the ones I hear most often, and there’s a good chance that one of these visits and sings in a yard or forest close to you.
Each of these thrushes occupy a slightly different slice of the environment around us. Robins like our yards. The Veery likes brushy wetlands. Hermit Thrush prefer early successional growth of mixed forests. The Bicknell’s Thrush, one of the thrushes of most concern in the Mahoosucs, lives only on the tops of our highest mountains. In its case, changing temperatures are impacting the plant and insect life on tops of these mountains. The concern is, with these changes, this bird will abandon our area at some point in the future.
For most thrushes, however, their biggest need is healthy forests with a variety of habitat. A good resource to help with this, especially for woodlot owners, is titled A Land Manager’s Guide to Improving Habitat for Forest Thrushes. It can be downloaded for free from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website at www.birds.cornell.edu .
James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.