ixoreus (from ixos, mistletoe, and oreos, mountains) naevius (varied)
Sunday, October 28, 1979 — 1:00 pm
Des Plaines, Illinois — home
Again, checking the action out my bedroom window paid off. I had just gotten back from church when I spotted this bird. Varied Thrushes live west of the Rockies, and as far as I knew shouldn’t have been a possible sighting in Des Plaines. I found out later that they are rare but regular wanderers. Every winter, a handful of them show up anywhere from Nebraska to the East Coast. But what are the chances of one showing up in my backyard just months after I started birding? I knew what it looked like from field guides and recognized it quickly.
What appears below is the original note that I wrote that day. “First noticed when it landed in top of tall tree. I thought it was a Robin. It flew to the crab apple tree behind the shed, on a low branch facing away from me and looking to its right. I distinctly saw a dark crown, orange stripe above the eye, black eye stripe and orange beneath that. I noticed gray-black wings with orange bars and a gray back and tail. It stayed for about a minute, then flew off. Not believing, I looked at every other bird in the book. The closest was the Bullock’s Oriole, but this bird was larger, Robin-shaped with a Robin-like bill. It had no orange rump and no white on the wings. Whether or not anyone believes me, I am convinced. My first rare bird — what beginner’s luck!! (Today is one year and one day after my first date with Sally.)”
I went outside and tried to find it again without success. I debated long and hard with myself whether to put this bird on my life list, and obviously, I decided to do so. But I will be happy when I see another Varied Thrush some day.
UPDATE: I finally saw another Varied Thrush on January 1, 2018. It had been discovered by another birder the day before, hanging out along a creek in Cheyenne Canyon just outside Colorado Springs. I had it in view for about 10 minutes and even took photos. There’s no doubt this time!