It is in the autumn when the birds have left their summer breeding grounds, that we gratefully receive the thrushes in northern California.
We watch all summer long as the toyon bushes and madrone trees flower, then bear fruit. Toward late summer the berries grow bigger and start to turn from green to orange and red. Here’s what we say, “It looks like the berries will be just right for the thrushes.”
If we are so lucky to get rain–and we have been this year–then the berries grow plump and they are perfect for the thrushes.
Not every year does it all turn out so well. If we have drought, the berries wither and drop to the ground. And the thrushes do not come.
But right now, our hillsides and forests are bright with the fresh new berries ripening in the autumn sun.
Our first hermit thrush arrived about two weeks ago — this is an event worth noting (and I do), for soon more will follow. In the past few years there has been one quirky individual who arrives first and leaves last every season.
He’s not eating the berries yet, apparently they’re not perfectly ripe.
As ground birds, they can be seen hopping on the ground, or tugging at berries in the bushes. In addition to the berries, thrushes eat insects, worms, and snails.
And it is not just the hermit and varied thrushes that winter here, we also look forward to greeting the robins.
Robins, also in the Turdidae thrush family, come in flocks. Whereas the hermit and varied thrushes are often individuals or in pairs, the robins come in very large flocks, sometimes as much as 100.
There are many genera and species of Turdidae in the world. (For more info click here.)
But here in northern California, we treasure our three fall thrushes, and avidly listen for the “chirrup” and chipping sounds, joining us for yet another winter.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander