Friday, July 17, 2015

Hermit Thrush Hallucination

Friday, July 17, 2015

This morning, while walking out to the Birdmobile with the backpack-briefcase slung over my shoulder, coffee and toast in one hand, and three-ring binder of song lyrics in the other hand, I noticed the distinctive tchup call of a hermit thrush. It was calling consistently from, I guessed, the ash tree behind the garage. This is a call I know very well—one I've heard often in the 20-plus years of living on this old ridge-top farm. But there was a problem with the timing of this call. Or, more accurately, a problem with the timing of a hermit thrush being here in southeastern Ohio in mid-July.

Hermit thrushes are not supposed to be here in mid-summer. They are with us from late fall through spring, but they leave us to nest elsewhere—mostly to the north—in the cooler, more conifer-rich forests of Canada or the mountain forests of Pennsylvania and New York. According to the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas, hermits do nest in Ohio in a few places where there are hemlocks and more northerly-feeling habitat. Nesting records have been confirmed in the Hocking Hills region and in northeast Ohio, in Ashtabula County.

As I was walking through the front yard, hearing the tchup, the improbability of this bird being here was dawning on me. "It's July 15. Why is there a hermit thrush calling in our yard?" I stopped to listen more carefully. Getting eyes on this bird would be confirmation of an out-of-season record. The sound stopped. I listened for a minute but no more tchup-ing. So I started walking once more out to the birdmobile and the sound started again. I stopped to try to get a fix on the sound. The sound stopped too. I wondered if I was so close to the bird that my stopping was scaring it. I took two more steps and heard a single tchup. Weird.

Then for some reason my brain came back online. I took a few steps while looking down and realized the tchup sound was being generated by the inseams of my jeans rubbing together down at ankle level. The sound may have been bouncing off the garage wall to my immediate left, creating the thrushy aural illusion I was hearing.

I pulled the legs of my jeans up to check for hermit thrushes. No luck.

The rest of the walk to the van consisted of me shaking my head, snickering, and calling myself some rather perjorative names.

Birding friends have told me I have good ears. I know I have a fairly rich imagination. Perhaps a little too much on both counts.

That's my hermit thrush hallucination. Take care, and I'll hear you out there with the birds.


On July 17, 2015 at 11:24 AM Julie Zickefoose said...

Ahh good one Will.

On July 17, 2015 at 3:56 PM Cindy L said...

Wait until fall/winter when it's corduroy season! All kinds of birds there!


On July 22, 2015 at 5:03 PM Anonymous said...

That's hilarious! Thanks for the good laugh.

On July 25, 2015 at 4:34 PM Marilyn Kircus said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that discovers rare birds that don't exist.