Wood Thrush in Pennsylvania in February!

After reading Jonathan Heller’s report of a Wood Thrush in Lebanon County on 4 February, I knew I had to go see for myself. Late yesterday morning, 6 February, I located the silent WOOD THRUSH about midway through the dense stand of spruce just off the main trail/ fire road at State Game Lands 145. I quickly called to Randy Miller who was walking parallel to me along the north edge of the stand. We were treated to good looks at close range as the bird remained hunkered in one spot for several minutes. Despite the very poor lighting conditions deep within the stand, I managed to obtain a few recognizable flash photos. This section of State Game Lands 145 is easily accessed from Pinch Road, just south of Mt. Gretna. The parking area for the fire road is on the west side of Pinch Road more or less across the street from the Environmental Education Center at Clarence Schock Memorial Park. The hike to the “spruce grove” is about 0.7 miles.

Wood Thrush attempting to over-winter at State Game Lands 145 in Lebanon County. There's only one prior documented winter record for Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Bosler)

Although not on the same level of magnitude as a Townsend’s Warbler or Painted Bunting, a Wood Thrush in Pennsylvania in February is without precedence. This is a species that winters largely in southern Mexico and Central America, and only very rarely documented wintering along the northern Gulf of Mexico (multiple records from LA and TX). McWilliams and Brauning (2000) list one winter record from near Powdermill Nature Reserve on 14 Jan 1985. Perhaps a testament to the record warmth we’re experiencing in the Northeast this winter, our Lebanon County bird is not alone. Remarkably, another Wood Thrush was nicely documented in Middlesex County, MA in mid-/ late January (http://ebird.org/ebird/massaudubon/view/checklist?subID=S9661465).

Sources cited:

McWilliams, Gerald M. and Daniel W. Brauning. The Birds of Pennsylvania. Cornell University Press, 2000.