Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Rare Sighting of Varied Thrush Draws Birders to Wesselman

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Rare Sighting of Varied Thrush Draws Birders to Wesselman

Article excerpt

Kathy Durnell admits she's no expert birder. Still, she hit the jackpot for rarities. On Dec. 27, she and Mike Wargel sat comfortably in Wesselman Nature Center's bird-viewing room, watching busy feeders in the snow-filled landscape. Suddenly, Wargel asked, "What's that?"

And Durnell responded, "I don't know, but it's different. Get a picture!"

That laid the groundwork for statewide excitement.

Once other birders saw the photos and confirmed Durnell's suspicions, news of her find hit the birders' Listserv. As of this writing, more than 300 folks from as far away as Indianapolis and Bloomington have flocked to the woods to see the rarity: a varied thrush.

While varied thrushes breed mostly north into Alaska, they typically winter along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and Northern California. But they wander. And every two to five years, they tend to wander farther than usual, perhaps driven by the abundance of acorns, a favorite wintertime food.

They've been spotted in every Canadian province except Newfoundland and in every U.S. state except Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina.

For whatever reason, certain areas seem to attract more wintering varied thrushes than others, such as the upper Midwest, especially near the Great Lakes, and the East Coast, especially from Maine to New York.

About 80 percent of thrushes show up between November and January. This December, at least three wandered into Indiana, one each near Indianapolis, Lafayette and here. As of this writing, two remain where first reported.

Again, for whatever reason, the numbers of these wanderers have been increasing throughout the Midwest over the past several decades. It's quite possible that no more birds move through here during eruption years now than in eruption years in the past. But with hundreds more birders, the vagrants are more likely to be spotted - and reported. …

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