A foggy start to Wednesday drove me into the pocket wood by the soccer pitch car park at St-Lazare sand pits. I was going in there today anyway after the McGill Bird Observatory on West Island trapped their second Bicknell’s Thrush of the autumn yesterday. I don’t see many catharus thrushes at the pits. Hermit Thrush and Veery breed but, although I hear them very often, I only see them occasionally. In the past I have seen Grey-cheeked Thrush there twice and never had the pleasure of a Swainson’s, so to speak. Today that changed when I got into a batch of thrushes straight away and was left scratching my head over one sombre plumaged individual and a call from a bird heard but not seen which might have been either Grey-cheeked or Bicknell’s.
First things first was a group of three Hermit Thrushes which showed well and allowed a photograph which, given that it was dense fog and water was dropping off the surrounding trees, didn’t come out too bad. Next was a brief but conclusive view of a Grey-cheeked Thrush which stayed out of lens range but was very welcome nonetheless. After lengthy searching for the mystery caller, which may have been the already logged Grey-cheeked but was unresponsive to playback of either species, I moved on. Sensing that today might be the day that I finally got a Swainson’s Thrush for the site I played their call and voom! Two birds came to me but stayed high, the views confirmed the ID, as did the hushed calls, there were obviously quite a few grounded birds today.
With the fog limiting the birding options to what I was already doing, I went back and tried to find the thrushes again but they had moved and I had to content myself with a Pileated Woodpecker. Below are a few photos of, I think, three different birds. I’m calling them all Hermit Thrushes but I’d be happy to hear informed opinion.