96 THE CONDOR VOL. VI casions a whistle would send me to the ranch house to see what was wanted, only to find no one had whistled. This puzzled me until I found the noise came from the thicket and of course must be the Mexican ghost. This I believed until a few days later accident revealed to me the real whistler, a Leconte thrasher. The note of the thrasher can be mistaken for that of no other bird. It resembles closely the whistle a man employs on calling a dog, short, with rising inflection at the end. So striking is the resemblance that it is nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other. The calls are uttered at intervals of about a minute, when the bird is in the mood, and are easily imitated. If done accurately the bird will continue answering your call for a long time but care must be taken not to repeat the whistle too rapidly or he sees through the deception. In addition to the call note he has a very attractive song which much resembles that of an uneducated mock- bird, though fuller and richer and pitched in a higher key. The only drawback to the song is its infrequency even where the birdq are most abundant. You nmy be in their midst all day and see several pairs, but if one song rewards you it nmy be counted a red-letter day. At least this has been my experience during an intimacy with them of nine, years in particular. For some time I doubted the statement made by some writers that this trasher was a fine singer, but was finally "shown" by the bird himself. While standing one evening on a high-drifted hill of white sand about two miles west of the rim of ancient Salton sea I heard the sweet strains of a new bird song and began to look for the singer. I expected to find a mocking bird whose individuality had been developed by the desert solitudes and who had learned a new song. On an adjoining sand hill, perched on the exposed tip of a sand buried mesquite I saw the singer--a Leconte thrasher. Perhaps environment enhanced the music for the spot was a most lonesome, God-forsaken one, near an ancient Indian encampment and burial ground, but I have heard no sweeter bird song and the memory still lingers. Since then I have heard the song a few times but not oftener than once or twice a year, though I have been frequently among the birds. Not only do they seldom sing but the whistling call note is not often heard. They appear to be silent, unsociable creatures, never more than a pair being found to- gether, unless a brood of young birds and parents, and then only until the former can shift for themselves. In no place between Banning and Salton can this thrasher be termed abund- ant or even fairly comnv)n, though in two localities I have seen as many as six pairs in a day and at one place found six nests in one day. It is a bird of the cactus region and is not often found away from it. The wide desert washes, sparsely populated by cholla cactus seem ideal hmnes for these birds and there they may be found more often than in greener surroundings. Banning is the western limit of their range and they seem resident wherever found. They are nearly as much ground birds as roadrunners and will not often take to flight unless pressed, then only for a short distance and the running is re- sumed. A few years ago cowboys in Banning amused themselves by capturing them on horseback. They would run the bird till it took wing, then after it again till its wings failed altogether, and becoming tired of running it would take refuge in a lmsh or hole and be captured. The Leconte thrasher may readily be distinguished from the California or the crissal thrasher by its lighter, sandy color, and blackish tip to the tail. The geo- graphical range of the Leconte and crissal thrasher is very similar but the Califor- nia thrasher does not often intrude upon them or they upon him. In Banning,
This page needs to be proofread.