Just as I was sitting down at my desk to start working on my book on clouds, I heard a loud thud from downstairs. I know my house sounds well and knew it was not the sound of the antique writing desk warping, but of a bird hitting the picture window in the front of my house.
I ran outside to find the bird beneath the window and though I had had a success last summer encouraging a window-stunned bird back to life, this bird had clearly broken its neck and died within a few minutes of my finding it.
It was a Varied Thrush--one of my favorite birds of the Pacific Northwest. A bird I first heard while surveying Marbled Murrelets in the old-growth forests at dawn. This thrush's song is a strange one--a buzzy hum at different pitches. A group of thrushes sounds like someone impersonating a spaceship landing. In the forest at dawn, it was surreal. You can hear the call anywhere, anytime here.
Varied Thrushes are about as hard to spot as a Marbled Murrelet in the forest, but the thrushes are common in my suburban neighborhood where there are plenty of shady coniferous woods for them. Still, it wasn't until a few summers of living in Olympia that I was able to track the strange song an actual bird. One. In a Douglas-fir in my backyard. They are well camouflaged and seem to prefer singing from near the tops of the towering trees.
I didn't expect to see a thrush this early in the year--I always associate them with the end of winter along with the greening Indian Plum in the forest understory. So, with this first thrush and this first window crash of the season, I am determined to figure out how to reduce the fatalities for the rest of 2014. Though I love seeing the birds out my picture windows, I stopped feeding the birds with feeders as even the Varied Thrush will feed on the ground below feeders. I am planning to make my windows less reflective so other birds don't attempt to fly through them. It doesn't make sense to create an environment that enhances our bird-watching pleasure if it is fatal to the birds we are attempting to attract.
If you have this same problem, American Bird Conservancy has some tips here for reducing window crashes. Please send any tried-and-true tips this way.