(crossposted to birdlovers)

Okay, now I’m having yet another ornithological identity crisis.

I have another Mystery Thrush. It hopped up on the railing in the early morning, bounced stiffly along it for a moment, looking like a somewhat chilly little ball of dark-eyed angst, surveyed the area and the indignant goldfinches, then flapped off.

Getting a really good look at it this way, I was able to rule out the vast majority of thrush-kind and also brown thrasher-kind. It’s deifnitely a thrush, it did the little look-I-can-be-a-fluffy-ball thing the bluebirds do when they’re cold, it had a brown back and white belly, shading to a slightly yellow-orangey bit at the throat (very slightly, nothing approaching a robin or bluebird, but noticeable just because of how white the breast was. It had the dark thrush eye, with white around it, probably too faint to really call an eye-ring. And–here’s the thing–nary a spot. There wasn’t a single spot, or even the ghost of a spot. There was some faint streaking where the throat grew darker, although you could say it was just the feathers creasing and I’d probably believe you–that’s how faint it was.

I flipped through my field guide to Carolina birds and discovered that our hero doesn’t, evidentally live in North Carolina. I went to my more exhaustive copy and found jack. Practically everything has spots. I’d have a really hard time believing that a clay-colored robin just decided to tour the east, and even if it did, it’s too dark–this guy’s breast was a white that wouldn’t have shamed an egret.

In despair, I went to E-Nature, and man, their photo of the veery is awfully close. It’s the right colors and the right shape, and the spotting at the throat is very pale–a hair less spotting, or if the spots blended into streaks more, and it’d be more or less exact. And it says veery’ve got the lightest spots of any of the thrushes. (It also looks nothing like the one in my field guide, which had big honkin’ black spots scattered across the throat, which was why I had initially dismissed it.)

The problem is that veery, it is claimed, are secretive and live in dense shade. My container plants would argue that I’ve got the dense shade thing down pat, and the greenbelt out back is indeed pretty shaderific, but for a secretive bird, it did quite the little boogie on the railing. And–this is the big one–it’s not supposed to be here. It migrates through in spring and fall, but it’s supposed to be with flocks that move by night, and it’s supposed to be in the mountains, not down here in the Triangle suburbs.

So now I’m stumped. Help me, o birders! I’m new to this. Is it more likely that there’s a veery in my yard, where there isn’t really supposed to be, or that I have some kind of freaky non-spotted hermit thrush? Compounding matters, I went back to the window with the binoculars, and actually SAW what I assume was a hermit thrush, with a breast so densely mottled it looked like it was wearing a fishnet bib, breaking into a nearly white throat with two long black broken stripes. No mistaking that one for my Mystery Thrush.

While I will lie in wait for as much of today as I can with the camera, that sort of thing is always kinda hit or miss. Any thoughts?

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