Location: Stillwater River, Montana
It’s May. Time to go fishing. Though two feet of snow fell the day after I arrived in Montana, I dusted off my gear anyway and headed to the Stillwater River about 40 miuntes northwest of Red Lodge. The river was fairly clear and still four feet below its high water mark, but the trout had no interest in any of my flies. However, hundreds of songbirds flitted from limb to limb around me. After a couple of hours, I figured I would have better luck catching wildlife with my camera than fish with my fly rod. With the trees only partially leafed out, it was the perfect chance to photograph small migratory birds who were just now returning to northern regions of the country, including this Hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus).
Though the Hermit thrush travels south for the winter, unlike other thrush species, it remains in North America in the southern United States and Mexico. During the spring, this medium-sized thrush returns to the coniferous forests and mixed woodlands across the northern latitudes to breed. Interestingly, east of the Rockies, it nests on the ground but prefers low branches of trees in the west. I knew I had spotted a Hermit thrush by its reddish tail which contrasts noticeably with its light brown body and by its black-spotted chest and thin white eye ring. This fellow nervously flitted from limbs to the ground. I was glad to click this frame before he moved on.