All was quiet in my yard late this afternoon. The sun had dipped almost behind the line of trees to the west of the backyard. In a few parts of the yard, its rays still touched trees or shrubs.
The birds were quiet. I was watching the flight of the Chimney Swifts overhead and idly attending to the constant battle of the hummingbirds. There were at least three chasing each other about. The cardinals were at the feeders enjoying their bedtime snacks and the mockingbirds were still patrolling the yard. I was taking it all in and reflecting on the fact that I had not seen any White-winged Doves in the yard in more than a week. Periodically through the year, these doves abandon my yard and this seems to be one of those periods. All was normal for a late afternoon in autumn and I wasn't expecting to see anything unusual. And then, I did!
From the shrubbery along the fence, I heard an unfamiliar "chuck." It was only unfamiliar in the sense that I don't usually hear it in my yard, but I thought I knew what it was. I started looking for the source of the sound, scanning the shrubs with my binoculars. And suddenly, there it was - big as life and twice as beautiful. A Brown Thrasher.
Now, Brown Thrashers are high on my list of favorite birds and I'm always hoping to see them in my yard, but I almost never do. They only ever visit me during migration and not often then. It had been a couple of years since I had seen one here and that was during spring migration. But there he was sitting among my shrubbery with a huge insect - apparently a cicada - in his beak.
I knew that if I went inside for the camera he would disappear, but when he dropped down to the ground to consume his meal, I had to try. I ran for the camera and came back outside and tried to locate him again. I finally did. He was in the shrubs again but mostly hidden by limbs. I couldn't get a clear shot at him with the camera and the light was fading fast. I had to acknowledge defeat, but then defeat and I are old acquaintances when it comes to trying to photograph birds.
His visit just reinforced for me what a remarkable month this has been in my backyard. In addition to my usual birds, I've had a Rufous Hummingbird, a (probable) Black-chinned Hummingbird, Yellow-breasted Chats, Baltimore Orioles, just to name a few of the standouts. And now at the very end of the month, almost at the last hour of daylight, I get a Brown Thrasher! Sometimes the life of a Backyard Birder is very good indeed.