Nature and Wildlife Photography
RBAsOrange-billed Nightingale-Thrush @ Black Hills, SD

Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush
©2010 - Christopher Taylor
[more photos here]

Latest Reports:

August 18: Lucked out and had just the time to look for the bird, which conveniently was near Mt. Rushmore (part of a long-planned family vacation). Yesterday (August 18) there were nine of us seeking bird. Just before sunrise, the ORANGE-BILLED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH sang once clearly at the edge of the parking area in a tall pine. It flew over the small stream (Iron Creek) subsequently and two of the team had fleeting views. Later, after a long period of silence, the bird could be heard calling from tall pines on the hillside immediately adjacent to the stream about 7:30 a.m. (this is just uphill of the parking area). Son Garrett and I had fleeting views twice of the bird, on one occasion it flew up from shrubbery and took a medium-height perch next to the trunk of one of the pines.

The bird is thus singing far less apparently than previously and people should listen carefully for the quiet, high-pitched descending whistle-call (similar to Robin).

(via Scott Atkinson from Washington)

August 15: I rec'd several reports that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush was present throughout the day today. (Sunday Aug 15th.) Thanks to those helping to keep others informed!

August 14: Yes the Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush is still at spearfish Cyn. Best time to see and hear is from 5am to 8:30am. Seems like Fall here today. Jean, sundance, Wy.

August 11: I just rec'd a message that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush was still present Wednesday morning in Iron Creek Canyon. Apparently it was cooperating well! (Thanks, Gene)

To the many folks making the trip out to see the bird, keep in mind the morotcycle rally is in full swing! Hotel/motel rates are very high, and the Black Hills and surrounding areas are CROWDED with bikes!!!

August 7: The Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush seems to be following the same routine of singing from ~5:15 am throughout the morning. Keep in mind that some of it's time is spent across the hwy by the house, so listen in that direction if you don't find it in Iron Creek Canyon. I had no reports for the afternoon/evening times, but I will assume that the bird continues to be more quiet in the afternoons and picks back up again in the evening. (Thanks for the report, Tim!)

August 5: Hello there: I rec'd a report that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush was still present in Iron Creek Canyon last night and this morning. (Thanks, Linda!)

August 3: The Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, or one just like it, was found this morning, as before at the mouth of Iron Creek.

It was just as Jennifer Fowler reported--the bird started singing around 5 am and was silent by 6 am. It was the first species heard, and started with nearly full songs. It was still too dark to see at 5, although the bird was briefly right in front of a group of birders. We just had glimpses over the next hour.

It was also heard and seen late on Aug. 2.

Michael Melius

August 2: The Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush gave good views between 5:20 am and 7:30 am. Thanks, Robin, for the report! I have not heard about the afternoon or evening in the canyon. (Jen Fowler)

August 1: Just rec'd a report that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush is still in Iron Creek Canyon. Seems like it is spending a bit more time across the Hwy near the house than in previous days. Fleeting glimpses are also seeming to be the views folks are getting! Singing is still off and on from ~5:20 am - 8:30 pm. When is this bird going to give up (Thanks for the report, John)

July 31: I rec'd a couple reports that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush is still present. There were several views throughout the morning amidst periods of silence and is pretty quiet after 10 am, but I have been hearing recent news that the bird does sing and become more visible in the evenings... sounds like the bird is still in the same pattern as the past few days! Morning is best, evenings second best, and between them is hit or miss. (Kris and Renee!)

July 30: I just rec'd a few reports that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush is still present. Sounds like the same as the past few days... earlier the better (5am start time), may be across the road at times, still mostly eyelevel and below in vegetation, and patience is a must. (Jennifer Fowler)

July 29: The Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush is still present! He is singing less frequently and views are hard to come by. Whenthe bird wouldsing, we knew the general location he was in but we could not see himas he is staying low and in thick vegetation. You really have to look hard to see him. Hints: You need more than one person looking. You need everyone in the group looking!!! Some for distant movement deep in the vegeand others with binocs scanning the branches way in the back. That has been successful the past few time I have been out. If you want to increase your chances of more than hearing the bird, you cannot stand back and watch for broad movements... this is looking though many layers of vegetation. (Jennifer Fowler)

July 28: Jen just called and the thrush is still present and exhibiting the same behaviour as on previous days.

July 27: I rec'd a report from Jim Swarr, of Melrose FL, that the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush is still in the canyon. It was singing up until the time they departed at 11am. The bird was seen best before 6am and limited views after that. Sounds like the OBNT has been in the same behavior pattern for the past four days.

July 26: OBNT still present. Best viewing time is as early as possible in the morning. The bird is currently singing from eye level or lower in the vegetation. Typically it stays in roughly the same area between song bursts. July 25: heard at 5am, deep in the poplars. It stopped singing at 6am. Negative reports 6am-8:30am. (Mark Miller).

July 24: present, 5am-8am best for viewing opportunities. (Jen Fowler).

July 23: present. Mornings best. Sings all day, but less frequently in afternoon. (Jen Fowler). July 22: Good looks at 7am on N side of trail. In the morning it was actively moving up and down the canyon. (Dick Latuchie). Sightings were hard to obtain after 10am. (Jen Fowler).

July 21: The OBNT is still present today. It seems to be favoring Spruce trees and a particular one that is visible on the edge of the meadow nera the parking area. It was also flying across the road to another Spruce tree much more frequently today. In general it didn't move very far up the canyon in the 4 or 5 hours we watched it this morning. More images here.

July 20: Seen and observed all morning by myself and 8 other birders. Singing, calling and working it's way up and down the canyon. There is a raspberry bush that it has been seen getting berries from about 1/4 mile up the trail. More images here.

July 19: The nightingale-thrush sang repeatedly 5:30-8:30am. It was heard from the parking lot at 5:30am. It worked up the canyon about 150 yards and back down. At 7:30am a group of 8 birders had excellent views of the bird on an exposed, sunlit perch in a tall pine for about 15 minutes. The bird was easy to hear, but difficult to find. Many thanks to local birder Jennifer Fowler, who found the bird and helped the rest of the group find and view it. (Barrett Pierce).

July 18: The bird continued to be found and photographed as it moved up and down the canyon, but sightings were very difficult to obtain. (multiple observers).

July 17: Ten birders heard it and caught occasional glimpses all morning. It was singing 75% of the time. Several photos were taken. Location: 1.7 miles north of Savoy at the trail head for Iron Creek, very near the parking lot.

Directions & Tips: (by Eric Ripma) The bird has been in Spearfish Canyon (Hwy 14A) where Iron Creek runs into Spearfish Creek which is 1.7 miles north of Savoy. There is a large trail head parking lot on the west side of the road with a trail that runs along Iron Creek. I have seen/heard the bird in the first 200-300 meters of the trail along Iron Creek but never farther along the creek. It did cross the road two times on Saturday morning but returned to the west side.

Photo Links:

  • Christopher Taylor
  • Doug Backlund
  • Eric Ripma

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