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celebrity redux

Townsend's Solitaire photo by Joe MecheThree years ago, almost to the day, a repeated thumping sound drew my attention to the living room window. A bird was hurling itself against the glass from the nearby juniper bush. Again and again.

After several weeks of this, and fruitless efforts to deter the bird, I turned to Facebook friends for help and eventually identified the bird as a Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) – a locally-rare winter resident in the thrush family that’s normally found in higher-elevation coniferous forests. These birds (male and female) are known for their fierce defense of winter forage — my juniper bush — and will fight each other beak and claw.

“ToSo,” as the bird came to be known, attained brief celebrity. Joe Meche, avid photographer and then-president of the North Cascades Audubon Society, gave ToSo the full paparazzi treatment. Unfazed, the bird stuck around just long enough to be included in the Christmas Bird Count, then vanished.

Through the following two winters, I listened and hoped for a return visit, but, alas, no ToSo.

When I heard that signature thump on Monday, I knew immediately where to look. Indeed, ToSo has returned. It’s impossible to be certain it’s the same bird, but the likelihood of a second Townsend’s Solitaire selecting my juniper bush from all the possible local options…well…I’m voting for ToSo. (The USGS Bird Banding Laboratory doesn’t have longevity information on the Solitaire, but other thrushes have been recorded living ten or more years.)

The crazy thing, really, is that I have a relationship with this bird. Yes, of course, it’s one-way, through-the-glass. But at first light, I listen for its flutter and scratch. I stand at the window and watch it gulp down juniper berries. I enjoy its song and am dazzled by its persistence and intensity of purpose.

Maybe ToSo will stick around long enough for this year’s Count. Maybe not. But for however long the bird is here, I will be watching. Amazed. Delighted.
. . . . .
photo by Joe Meche, 11 December 2013

8 responses to “celebrity redux

  1. tomwisk December 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

    We defend our territories against imaginary enemies, sometime ourselves.

  2. Jennifer Bullis December 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Hooray–ToSo is back! (My theory is that he prefers the juniper berries in your beautiful, well-tended garden.)

  3. jik December 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    An utterly reasonable theory, my dear!

  4. StiffKnees December 13, 2013 at 3:39 am

    As a child I remember a small sparrow who we called Tufty, as it was missing tail feathers, used to tap on the window overlooking the back garden, wanting food. I cannot recall whether it returned each year, but it’s a lovely memory. It’s a wonderful experience to connect with nature, however brief.

  5. cupcakemurphy December 13, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Oh ToSo, you defend away to your heart’s delight.

  6. jik December 13, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Thanks — poignant memory — and you’re right about connecting.

  7. LaVera December 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I have a magical relationship with a Hummingbird that comes back every spring and greets me in the mornings by hovering just outside my kitchen window. Luckily it never hits my window.

  8. jik December 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Oh, that’s so lovely, LaVera! Hummers are amazing.

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