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Very excited to see this bird sitting on a utility pole crossbar about .6 miles away. We walked to within .2 miles before it flew off. All very light head and breast with almost complete black belly when facing us. Nothing else seen of bird until it flew off where white base of tail and thick black subterminal band on tail seen, along with mostly whitish underwings but large black "wrist" spot. Wings long and relatively tapered. Flew off to another tree top about .5 miles away. Weather was snowy and blowing a bit at the time. In somewhat open grassy areas interspersed with broad areas of poor grass and plenty of shrubs.
A small peep only about 1/2 the size of nearby Killdeer. Dark bill was relatively short and slightly decurved. Legs did not appear as dark as the bill but color was very hard to discern with the low light conditions at the time. Darkish brown head, upperparts and upper breast. Rest of underparts white. When flying whitish line extended through the middle of the wing from about the base of the tertials through the primaries. White outer retrices and brown central retrices, with central retrices being longer than outers creating a wedge shaped tail. No calls heard. Foraging together in salty looking, mucky residue from recently wet sewage lagoon bottom, close to where shallow surface water was still present.
At a little after 1100 at the edge of the dry canyon immediately west of the Pump House Canyon, I flushed a White-winged Dove. It flew across the wash and landed in a tree. Since I have attached a poor quality but identifiable photo taken with my 12X zoom point and shoot camera I carry with me for documentation such as this, I will not belabor the written documentation. The bird flushed noisily (somewhat startlingly, from a bush nearly at my feet. I immediately knew it was a White-winged Dove when I saw the diagonal white bars on the upper surface of each wing as it flew away. It also exhibited a white terminal tail band, broken in the center. These were the only clear field marks noted as it flew away. Fortunately it landed and I was able to photograph it through moderately heavy snow fall. Eurasian Collared-Doves are quite similar, but lack the stark white upper wing coverts that give the White-winged Dove its name, nor are the primaries as black, so they appear more washed out, with much less contrast in the wings and upper surface of the tail. Several Mourning Doves were in the immediate area, but when seen well, cause little confusion with this species. As it was perched, the dark patch on the face below the auricular was also evident, but I could not make out the colorful bare parts under the lighting conditions and distance (I was not able to approach closer than ~12 meters before the bird flushed again). Given the cold and snowy conditions, I decided not to press it further. I was surprised to see this species in the winter at this location. I am familiar with White-winged Dove from visits to southwestern North America from Southern California through Texas and have seen it in Northern California (where it is a vagrant) on few of occasions.
At approximately 1030 on 15 December 2012, I heard a Varied Thrush sing single phrases a total of seven or eight times (per notes I made shortly after the detection). I was about 200 meters below the pump house in the "Pump House Canyon" near the Black Rock Dam. There had been steady light snow the entire morning, though at this point there was a lot of bird activity focused around fruiting trees along the small flowing stream. Over 100 American Robins and two to three Hermit Thrushes were in the immediate area, actively foraging. This site produced the most songbird activity I witnessed during the count. I tried to track down the singer, but was unable to see it. After four or five minutes, I played a recording of Varied Thrush song from the Sibley Birds app on my phone, trying to coax the bird into view. It sang three more times, but I was never able to see the bird, nor did it appear to approach any closer after I played the recording. No chuck notes or other calls of the species were heard. When I initially heard the bird, I assumed it was about 30 meters away, though in my previous experience the quality of Varied Thrush song makes it hard to pin down the exact distance. Nevertheless, there was no wind noise or other interference, and I was able to hear the song clearly. I moved toward the sound, but I don't believe I was ever closer than about 15 meters from the bird, and the last phrase I heard appeared to be slightly farther away than those preceding it.
Each phrase the Varied Thrush sang was similar, with pauses between the notes of a minute or more. The singing did not exhibit the changes of pitch between notes as when in full song, but was the fairly unadorned winter version I regularly hear on bird surveys I do near Sacramento, California, where the species is a regular winter resident in varying numbers (some winters, like this one, it is quite abundant). Each note was a sustained, burry, slightly ethereal song in a minor key, held out for one to two seconds. It is very difficult to describe this sound, but there really are no similar sounds to compare it to in the natural world (I suppose you could find individual notes within other thrush songs, like a Veery, isolate them and hold them out, and they would somewhat approach the sound produced by this species). It sounds mechanical and I have heard it described as notes in a hearing test, which is as good a description as any. Since I regularly hear this song in California, I am certain that it was a Varied Thrush. My only concern when identifying this species by song is the possibility of an imitation by European Starlings, which are fantastic mimics. Although I have never definitively seen a starling perform this imitation, I would be surprised if it has not occurred. I saw no starlings in the immediate area, nor would they likely have much of a source sample in this location where Varied Thrush is not expected. The large number of foraging thrushes makes me confident that a Varied Thrush was generally associating with a flock of American Robins, or was at least attracted to the same food source. I regularly find the two species together on my survey sites in California.
I followed a portion of the robin flock west and was then distracted in my search by finding a White-winged Dove (see below) and hearing an unfamiliar vocalization that I was not able to track down, but now believe was a harsh call by a Townsend's Solitaire. I returned at around 1230, but the activity had died down and the weather conditions had gotten worse.