After a local Varied Thrush sighting off the corner of Hidalgo and Mirador on November 23, 2014 (Hidalgo Wilderness), another post was listed at the Yahoo Orange County Birding Group on November 25 by Kiersi Koeff at the Wilderness Glen Park in Mission Viejo which is approximately a half a mile away.
My visit today on 11-29-14 (previous visits were on 11-26 and 11-27 at Wilderness Glen) was not only intended to obtain better photos but to keep better records of the habits of these local Varied Thrushes and also how to approach an area where they are situated. First and foremost, patience with trying to find (usually within 1 hour or less at this location) and especially attempting to photograph the Varied Thrush should not be overlooked. For one, they are unresponsive to human ‘pishing’ or songs and calls of their own. Silence was the best method and optimum in being able to get within 20 yards or so. Once you’ve located a Varied Thrush, it’s likely to takeoff which is untrue of the other local species found here such as Dark-eyed Juncos, American Robin, Acorn Woodpecker, Ruby-throated Kinglets and the Hermit Thrush to name a few. If unfamiliar, the Varied Thrush flies in a straight line and darts between trees anywhere from 10-25 feet in height. In this particular area I noted they were most fond of Oak trees and enjoyed perching on large branches without obstruction. Once they’ve observed your approach and/or presence, they are likely to hide, then peer out behind a cluster of branches to observe your movement. I noted they are curious to wait and watch if you’ll leave the immediate area.
I was able to find the Varied Thrushes all 3 days within Oak trees except for a brief moment today were they were on the ground amongst the Sycamore fallen leaves at approximately 3pm. One Varied Thrush stayed within viewing range and flew about 15 feet up into a Redwood tree shown below. The only way I was able to obtain these photos was to take small steps and watch my footing for leaves and such as to not startle the Varied Thrush in view. I also put the camera in silent shutter mode. The Varied Thrushes blend well with the fallen Sycamore leaves as their orange plumage disguises their presence optimally.
In the several Varied Thrushes that I encountered over the course of 6 days (and about 12 hours of time), learning their habits proved to be of great interest and beneficial especially when comparing with The Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes. These Thrushes I’ve typically found almost always at ground level or just a few feet high.
The above description and notes are of course for observations of approximately 6 Varied Thrushes in all (2 at Hidalgo and 4 at Wilderness Glen) at these two locations.