Into the desert for a wraith of a bird

I kept checking the soles of my tennis shoes as it felt like they were melting right off my feet. The rest of my body was just in shock, my medulla oblongata probably trying to decide whether to sweat profusely or just shut down completely, whether to increase or decrease my heart rate. I blinked into the bright desert, straining my eyes under a white sun, and it was five in the afternoon. I was near the “town”?? of Maricopa, wandering the Mojave flats aimlessly in search of the quintessential desert bird, the enigmatic Le Conte’s Thrasher. There was no direction, just wandering among the sparse salt bushes, staring at the gravel. I used the bare hills and rusted horsehead pumps as landmarks. A pair of Sage Sparrows surprised me, I didn’t know anything could be alive right now. I continued, walking in loops, circles, and wiggly lines until a thrasher-sized bird popped out of nowhere and disappeared right away.

I wanted to see this bird, with its long curved bill and gray color of the desert. At a nearby spot I had better luck after I caught a thrasher flying across the road, weren’t they supposed to just run and weren’t they supposed to be shy. I managed to track down a pair that foraged less than ten feet away, with one of the birds singing very quietly. As I stood still, with my shoes surely melting by now, the bird hopped closer and closer, until it almost hopped over my foot. Fortunately I got a picture of the bird to verify later that it wasn’t just the heat.

Le Conte's Thrasher near Maricopa, California Photo Stephan Lorenz

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