Who needs a partridge in a pear tree, when you can have a thrasher at a woodrat house?
Because, that fab photo I featured in the last post was just 1 of 46 pics that the cam caught of the Cal thrasher as it, well - thrashed. With some serious head-banger style I might add.
So, let's dig a little deeper with this California character.
A true Californio, the Cal thrasher is endemic to the California Floristic Province, and a permanent, non-migrating resident of our infamously ignitable coastal and foothill chaparral.
Which is where these camera trap photos were captured - in a thicket of chamise, toyon, coffeeberry and yerba santa. And in front of a woodrat stick house.
Here's the front yard in the morning before the Cal thrasher arrived:
That's the entry tunnel to the house up at 2 o'clock.
But the Cal thrasher showed at 11:30am, in the rain, and then spent the next 7 minutes churning up every nook and cranny in search of snacks.
Check out how it digs down with that decurved beak, and turns up the dirt & detritus like a tiller. Including a rock near as big as its head.
A hunter of big insects, such as grasshoppers, beetles and even Jerusalem crickets, the California thrasher also forages fruits & berries, small frogs, lizards & salamanders.
And all are oft found in and around woodrat stick houses. Clever bird.
Our California thrasher is also a species with an interesting collection history.
First documented by the La Pérouse expedition to Monterey in 1786, the ornithologists thought it a type of bee-eater. And never got around to describing it for science. That Jean-François de La Pérouse and his ships disappeared and never made it home to France may have been a factor.
It was collected again by the Malaspina expedition in 1791, drawn by the talented José Cardero, and then described by the eminent Tadeo Haenke - the first PhD to visit California.
Sketches of the California Thrasher by Jean Robert Prévost (left) and José Cardero (right)
But Alessandro Malaspina's strong political opinions and poorly-considered affair with the wife of King Carlos IV when back in Spain - and his resulting imprisonment, exile and death - left most records from his expedition unpublished.
And thus the shy Cal thrasher was once again lost to science.
It took William Gambel, the bird-loving Thomas Nuttall protégé, to rediscover the California thrasher in 1842 and sort out its unusual descriptive history. Which is why he gave it the specific epithet Toxostoma redivivum - "redivivum" meaning "resurrected."
Love that last shot. Almost looks like the thrasher is saying "Did you get all that?"
Here are the full 46 pics put into an 18 second video:
Seems like it needs a sound track. Maybe some nice Metallica.
- Richard G. Beidleman - UC Press - California's Frontier Naturalists
- La Pérouse - Life in a California Mission
- Ramón Gutiérrezz and Richard J. Orsi - Contested Eden
- David Allen Sibley - The Sibley Guide to Birds
- All About Birds - California Thrasher
- Birds of North America - California Thrasher
- Wikipedia - California Thrasher
- Wikipedia - Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse
- Wikipedia - Alessandro Malaspina
- Wikipedia - José Cardero
- Wikipedia - William Gambel
- The Jepson Manual of Vascular Plants of CA, and Jepson Online Interchange
- Wikipedia - California Floristic Province
- Nature of a Man (this blog) - Crushing Birds w/ Cam Traps