This week’s photo, taken May 4, 2013 at Discovery Park in Seattle, WA, features a TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE feasting on madrone tree flowers scattered along the ground.
Sometimes we focus our binoculars on a bird and think: “Wow, I don’t know what that is.” It can be a frustrating moment, or perhaps an exciting one, for if we initially cannot put a name on a bird, it might mean that we have found something unusual.
That’s how I feel on Saturday morning when I spot a mostly gray bird with a long tail and a mockingbird-like bill. For a few moments, I am stumped. Then, because of the bold white eye-ring, I realize it’s a TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE, an uncommon species in the Seattle area. It’s also my first ever decent sighting of a Solitaire. Last fall in Montana, I had a pathetically poor, long-distance view of one which I could not identify until after thorough examination of my grainy photos on my computer. (I nearly had to contact CSI for help).
This individual exhibits a fondness for the tiny bell-shaped flowers that resemble bits of popcorn and appear to litter the path. Since the bird intends to hang out and fuel up, I decide to sit down and observe the feeding activity for awhile. Every few minutes, a hiker approaches and flushes the bird into a nearby tree. But every time the hiker moves on, the Solitaire returns to the ground and resumes its snacking. Finally, after 45 minutes, I get up to leave, and my movement causes the Solitaire to retreat to safety in a tree. After I take about 30 steps, curiosity gets the best of me. I stop, turn around and look back. Once again, the Solitaire is exactly where it wants to be: on the ground, clearing the area of popcorn litter.