Monday, January 28, 2008

A tale of Two Flycatchers.

The First Flycatcher
Little Gray and Brown Bird

This past weekend was the Winter Louisiana Ornithological Society Meeting. The location was Alexandria, in central Louisiana. The standard protocol for the meetings include a reception and program Friday night, field trips on Saturday, and a banquet on Saturday night. Sometimes there are organized trips on Sunday morning as well. This particular meeting had several organized field trips with assigned guides -- actually more organization than I recall at other LOS meetings I've attended. So we signed up for Sat morning and afternoon and Sunday morning trips. And then the Gray Flycatcher came to town.

In the week before the LOS meeting, some astute birders in north Louisiana happened to notice a little Empidonax flycatcher that didn't quite fit the mold. Pictures were taken, discussion was had, and the conclusion was that this was a new State bird! A record--first Gray Flycatcher ever recorded in the state! The bird was located outside of Bossier City in north LA -- two hours beyond Alexandria for those of from Baton Rouge. How could we pass up the opportunity to see this bird?

Well, we couldn't. So my compadre Lainie and I headed out to see the bird on Sat morning -- foregoing the organized field trip. Took about 2 hrs to get there, and we spent another 2 hours locating the bird, filming the bird, and noting the other birds in the vicinity for the Winter Bird Atlas. Filming the bird involved entering the cow pasture, complete with suspicious cows, lots of cow patties and very damp fields. (I'm not sure permission has been obtained by birders to enter the property, so if you do, exercise caution and, whatever you do, don't leave the gate open!) The bird tends to work a short treeline -- sallying back and forth between small trees and even out to the field to perch on twiggy growth. He's being harrassed by Phoebes and Mockingbirds, but I saw him go after the Phoebe too, so it's a two way street!

Here's a link to a series of photos taken by the Boslers when they found the bird this weekend: Bosler's pics of Gray Flycatcher

I was also able to obtain some video of the bird. Now, something I failed to mention about the Saturday that we chased the bird was that it was COLD -- a very chilly, gray day. The landscape was very gray and brown...which made it very tough to photograph a little gray and brown bird! The camera doesn't seem to be able to distinguish the bird from its surroundings and focus on the bird. So...the videos are not great. There's one 2-second stretch near the end when the bird was only about 20 feet from me that's probably the best.

Video of Gray Flycatcher

The Second Flycatcher
A Bright Vermilion Bird!

The color vermilion is not used a whole lot. I'm sure people have trouble spelling it, and why use "vermilion" when "red" will do? Well, this little bird gives one a reason to use the word vermilion! There were dozens of Northern Cardinals in the immediate area of this bird, and I bet if he hadn't been there, people would have been impressed by the red birds. But the Vermilion Flycatcher puts them to shame -- he seems to just glow and reflect light! In fact, the homeowner who lives just across the street from the location he's chosen to over-winter remarked that she thought she'd been seeing a bit of contractor tape caught in the shrubs!

While this is not a rare bird, it's much more common in the southwest corner of Louisiana. According to the folks that found this bird, Vermilion Flycatchers have been found to overwinter in Central LA in small numbers. This one hadn't been reported yet though. If you want directions to find the bird, send me an email and I'll help you out...

And now...enjoy the
Video of Vermilion Flycatcher

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