Turns out I had the species right, but my timing was way off. On Sunday Benjamin Van Doren texted me to say that Tim Lenz had found a Townsend's Solitaire at Sampson State Park on Lake Seneca. It was too late to run for it then, and initial reports that the bird was with (typically nomadic) waxwings didn't bode well for it sticking. Nevertheless, the bird was seen by several birders on Sunday afternoon so, despite the long drive, I knew I'd probably try for it if it stuck.
|Townsend's Solitaire (photo by Jay McGowan - used with permission)|
At 9:35am I pulled into the site and found five other birders, including Joe Giunta and Janet Akin, who reported that the bird had apparently been seen at 7am and 8:55am. In both cases it had stayed true to its pattern and followed a long period of feeding invisibly in the dense juniper scrub with a brief appearance on top of a leafless deciduous tree. And so with nothing to do but wait, I started a circuit, wandering the trails and roads nearest to the favorite area and scanning trees for distant birds on the sky-line.
By 10:45am the birding group had changed with some leaving (Joe planned a quick visit to Montezuma NWR for Tundra Swans and Sandhill Cranes and had just left, planning to return) while we also had some new arrivals. Then as I walked the road for the fifth or sixth time, I saw a promising bird sitting high in a tree some distance away and as soon as I got my bins on it yelled out that I had the bird.
|Townsend's Solitaire (honestly)|
Given the the bird typically only showed once every two hours I decided against waiting for a repeat performance and headed on back to the City for dinner. On the way I did get a call from Joe Giunta to say that the bird had showed again a couple of hours later and that all the birders present had great views (and better photos I'd imagine).