Monday, July 19, 2010

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush Information

I left the Black Hills this morning at about 10 am due to other obligations (birding in Arizona and Mexico, it's been a tough life the past few days) and will not be up to date on the status of the bird from now on. That being said, feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer them.


So here it is . . . .

The bird was first detected on July 10th. I had a very brief view of the bird and heard it singing for about 15 minutes. After a few minutes, the only conclusion that I could come to was an Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush. I listened to the recordings of the song the next day, and they were a perfect match, so I headed back to try for a better look. I walked up and down the canyon countless times without satisfactory looks. On the evening of July 15th, I was finally able to get views of the bird that confirmed it as an Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush in my head. On the 16th, I took photos of the bird after playing a brief recording of its song. It flew in to a close tree the second the recording started. To my knowledge, recordings of the song have only been played 3 times with mixed results. From the morning of the 17th through today, the story is on the South Dakota listserve.

Tips for seeing the bird:

  • Arrive early in the morning. Each morning that birders have been there, scope views have been achieved before 6:30 am.
  • The bird tends to sing from the mid-story up.
  • Focus on the first 200 meters of trail and around the parking lot. The bird has not been seen/heard past the 90 degree right turn in the trail.
  • It tends to have a few favorite perches. Those would be too hard to describe here, but hopefully people who have been there will have pegged them down.

As for the origins of this bird, so far every birder that has been able to observe this bird agrees that it is very likely a wild bird. This is due to many factors including behavior and lack of feather wear.

The bird's song has been recorded once with a video/camera, the results were much better than we expected. I will either get the recording posted or get a link to where everyone can hear it as soon as possible.

The best pictures that are available now are at: http://www.wildphotosphotography.com/WildPhotos/thrush/thrush.htm
These photos were taken by Doug Backlund. Believe me, these photos took a lot of patience and should not be taken for granted. I spent a lot of time standing beside cameras for two days with agonizing results for the most part.

Directions starting from the Rapid City Airport for those of you who are coming from out of town - I have not driven this exact route, but it is easy to get to the interstate from the airport and from there it is just a few turns. After leaving the airport, turn right on 44. Follow this for 4.7 miles and take a right on E39th St. After 0.7 miles, turn left at Jubilee Lane. After 0.2 miles turn right on Elk Creek Road/Elk Vale Road (this road changes names). Follow to Interstate 90 and go west (turn left onto the interstate). Follow the interstate for 47 miles to exit 14 for US 14A/Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Follow the Byway into the canyon for about 13 miles until you come to a bridge with a sign marking the creek as Iron Creek. The parking area is on the right side of the road before you cross the creek.

Good Luck,
Eric

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