If you look up the term “birder” in certain dictionaries, you’ll discover it can mean “kindness to strangers.” Today, Susan and I saw proof of it. We went searching for an extremely rare Varied Thrush that has chosen Ohio for a winter vacation.
The Varied Thrush is a bird of the Pacific Northwest. Occasionally one will show up in this area and when it does, alarms sound and flash all over the region. The species is so outstanding, author/artist David Sibley chose the Varied Thrush out of more than 900 birds in North America to grace the cover of his Western Field Guide.
The bird in question showed up on the feeder of a young Amish couple, Naomi and Michael Yoder in Fresno, Ohio, a place so deep in the Amish community it doesn’t even show on most maps. For us it was about a 90-minute drive through some of finest scenery Ohio has to offer.
Using directions posted on the Ohio Ornithological Society listserv, we found the house and drive with ease. Well, ease because we have a four-wheel drive vehicle. And much to our delight, as we got out of the car, the bird was teed-up on the edge of the feeder, 50 yards away, giving us great, but too-brief looks.
After the bird flew and we did our high-five thingy, I spoke with Michael, a nicer young man you could not hope to meet. He was carrying a guest register and politely asked the dozen or so other birders to sign in. He excitedly told me the story of Naomi finding the bird and I suspect he’s told it many times. The guest register had more than 125 names on it, but it’s still early. As the word spreads those pages will fill.
We waited around in the 25-degree temperatures for about 20 minutes until Michael invited everyone into his house. He said the bird takes hour-long breaks so why not wait inside? This is the third day he’s been inviting strangers in to warm up. He told me that this morning about 30 people crowded into the small area off the kitchen, the best spot to watch the feeder.
The plethora of birds around the feeding station was amazing. It was while looking at a Brown Creeper that Michael spotted the thrush and got it in his spotting scope, giving us all great looks.
The Varied Thrush is one of those birds that neither words nor pictures can truly describe. Its mix of orange and black, the intricate patterns on its wings and sides …
Well, you have to see it to believe it, and even then you might not believe it. And when you read about people like Naomi and Michael Yoder, well you have to see them to believe it, too.
Varied Thrush might have been the main attraction, however, the variety of birds at the feeder while waiting for the thrush was amazing. Here, an Eastern Bluebird and Northern Cardinal. We had 24 species for the day.