Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Beatnik Birding: A True Desert Denizen, the Le Conte’s Thrasher

by Bryce W. Robinson

Le Conte's Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

Le Conte’s Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

The genus Toxostoma is comprised of some of my favorite birds. At the top of these species is the Le Conte’s Thrasher. I love this bird in part because it is rather difficult to find. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Sonoran Desert, frequenting the sandy creosote scrub that is this birds habitat. Still, I’ve only seen a handful of this desert specialist, and each time has been memorable.

Recently, I found two birds outside of Palm Springs, CA, one of which was singing atop a creosote. I had never heard the song of the Le Conte’s. It is the same wonderful wandering warble of other Toxostoma species, yet it seems a bit more delicate.

The Le Conte's Thrasher signature habit, running along the sand as if it were a Roadrunner.

The Le Conte’s Thrasher signature habit, running along the sand as if it were a Roadrunner.

One of the reasons I am so fascinated by this bird is its habit to run across the sand between Creosote shrubs as it forages for food. It seems to prefer running rather than flying. I can’t help but think of the Greater Roadrunner every time I see this behavior.

Le Conte's Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

Le Conte’s Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

I find it incredible that this bird is only twenty miles from another southern California Toxostoma species. The California Thrasher is much like the Le Conte’s in appearance, but it frequents the chaparral hills of southern California. This pair of Le Conte’s Thrashers I found are on the western edge of the desert in the extremely arid white sand hills amidst Palm Springs iconic wind mill farms. Its proximity to the California Thrasher’s range is incredible, as the species is very different in habits and habitat. These two species are prime examples of evolution, adaptability, and the affects of environmental pressures.

 

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Beatnik Birding: The Limp-legged Surfbird

by Bryce W. Robinson

Surfbird- Aphriza virgata

Surfbird- Aphriza virgata

A few days ago Caitlin Davis and I took a walk along the beach near Santa Monica looking for some spring migrants and remaining winter residents. It was a fairly productive walk with Brandt’s Cormorant, Red-throated Loon, Whimbrel, Western and Clark’s Grebe, Glaucous-winged Gull and more. The highlight for me was a pair of Surfbirds, one of which had a bum leg. The birds leg was lame, and it travelled about the beach without skipping a beat by hopping. It kept up with its compatriot, and seemed lively and healthy.

The lame-legged Surfbird

The lame-legged Surfbird

I was impressed that the bird was healthy, given that it lacked one leg. I appreciate the reminder of the adaptability that is common in nature. Of course, if one cannot adapt to maladies or changing conditions, one dies. It is nice to see a success story every once in a while.

The lame-legged Surfbird, and the compatriot

The lame-legged Surfbird, and the compatriot