Now by and large I'm not one of those people who can listen to bird calls and rattle off the names of the species responsible. My mother can, and my dad could. They both grew up in the country before television was around so they spent enough time outdoors to learn what was what. I, on the other hand, can recognize and identify only a few birds by their calls--robins, red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, and (an oddball here--these are deemed an invasive species) quaker parakeets (also known as monk parrots).
But Swainson's Thrush is in a class by itself. I first heard these lovely birds more than thirty years ago, when my husband and I moved out to our rural property here in the foothills of the Cascades. It was decades before I managed to track down what made these unusual, whorling, upwardly ascending notes, when my dad sent me a 6 volume set of Audubon birdsong videos and I finally managed to plow through them all. Ironically, it was both a satisfaction and a sadness to finally learn this bird's name--I rather liked its being so mysterious.
And mysterious it is, because I have only seen this elusive bird twice in all the years I've lived here--and one of those occasions, it was a stuffed speciman in a glass case at one of Washington's national parks! These birds keep to the dense woods.The only living example I've encountered was a young fledgling the kids found beneath its nest in a tall Douglas Fir, hopping about and panicking at finding itself out unprotected. We set it gently up on a branch out of reach of cats, and trusted that its parents would find it and care for it. Apparently--or hopefully--they did, for a while later when we went back to check on it, we didn't find the young bird.
Nowadays the internet makes searching for this kind of information fairly routine, so I've managed to find both photographs and recordings of its song to share with you here. It was also gratifying to learn that others like myself are also under the spell of the song of this loveliest of shy speckled birds.