The Hermit and The Hole

Top Photo: Hermit thrush perches on vine in Explore the Wild.

There are three thrushes which regularly spend the winter at the museum, eastern bluebird, American robin, and hermit thrush. All are migratory to some extent, though our local robins and bluebirds stay put. Only one is exclusively a winter visitor.

Hermit thrushes arrive in our area late September to October. By the middle of May they’re gone. Mostly insectivorous, they consume many berries during the colder, insect deficient winter months, which is one reason they winter so far north. The other similar looking, spot-breasted thrushes, veery, Swainson’s, and gray-cheeked, migrate through our area, but keep going south in fall to Central and South America.

Hermit thrush at its “claim.”

If you’re looking for a hermit thrush, a good place to start is any source of berries, whether holly, honeysuckle, hawthorn, or firethorn, among other vines, shrubs, and trees. When hermit thrushes arrive in the fall they usually stake claims on whatever food source is open to them.

While walking through the Dinosaur Trail I spotted what looked like a freshly excavated woodpecker hole about thirty feet up in a loblolly pine. It was a large hole, the size a red-bellied woodpecker might excavate. No, larger, flicker sized. Perhaps 4” in diameter. Pileated woodpecker’s holes are usually taller than they are wide. Probably not a pileated.

Woodpecker “hole” in loblolly pine.

I walk this trail multiple times each day the museum is open. I had never noticed the hole before. If it were from a previous season I certainly would have noticed the comings and goings of the occupants. If it was a newly excavated hole I would surely have noticed its excavation. Woodpeckers, by nature of their construction methodology (jackhammering their bills against a tree trunk) make a lot of noise and there would be chips flying everywhere. How could I have missed that.

I needed a closer look. I didn’t have my bins. My camera. I pulled out the camera and clicked off a few shots. Looking at the LCD screen, and zooming in a bit, the “hole” didn’t quite look like what I thought it was. Instead, it looked like a shadow.

Some three feet above and to the left of the “hole” was a pine cone, positioned just right to cast a shadow on the trunk. The photo below shows the pine cone (arrow). Also, the “hole” position has moved ever so slightly to the right from it’s position on the first photo in the few minutes between shots (above). Holes don’t move. Shadows do, with the tracking sun.

Pine cone casting shadow on trunk. Holes don’t move.

Never a dull moment.

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