Saturday, June 4, 2016

Not Just Another Empid

It's amazing what can stir people up.  It can be anything really.  In the birding world, it can be a variety of things too.  A majestic eagle or owl is one.  A fall out during migration is another.  And then there's the first records for regions.  Nothing causes as big of a stir when a first record is found for a big geographical area.  I'll use a real example for my post, and that is the ABA area.  Whenever a first record for the ABA area is found (North America--United States and Canada), it usually sends birders into a frantic state of mind as they hope to successfully chase and land a bird.  This especially happens when such a rarity is found in a land lock state.  Recently, birding phenomenon David Stejskal found a bird like this.  As Dave was camping with his wife in Aliso Springs in the eastern flank of southeastern Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains, he found a strange empid that he felt was something different.  Dave had never been to this area, and what turned into a Memorial Day camping trip turned into Dave finding the ABA's first ever record of Pine Flycatcher on May 28th, 2016!  The Pine Flycatcher is a Mexican bird, and an empidonax flycatcher at that.  Yes, it resembles a Cordilleran and Dusky Flycatcher both, but differs vocally.  I've seen some Mexican vagrants over the years in southeastern Arizona, and there's plenty that I haven't seen.  Luckily, I got to see this first-in-ABA mega bird.  It may come with a small package to it, but the gift inside of it represents the first of it's kind to be a known record in North America.

Dave found the Pine Flycatcher off of a side road that goes into Gardner Canyon.  Aliso Spring was a horribly rough nightmare of a drive for 3.5 miles to the campsite where Dave camped at.  Once at the end of the road, the otherwise open and heat inducing habitat one would have to travel to became shady and sheltered by tall trees.  And here is where the Pine Flycatcher was thriving.

Many birders have been coming and going to see this ABA first Pine Flycatcher, myself included.  See it's all bright orange lower mandible?  That is one of the Pine Flycatcher's key field marks visually outside of it's voice.

Some rarities make you play the waiting game with them in order for you to see the bird.  The Pine Flycatcher has been very reliable for everyone so far who has decided to chase it.

My party and I watched in amazement as it ate this cicada in front of us.

The Pine Flycatcher has even been working hard on building a nest.  I've seen photographs of it sitting on the nest.  Folks are wondering if a male could possibly be around somewhere?  Hey, look at the Tufted Flycatchers in Ramsey Canyon.  The nest building is a welcoming feat among birders who are making the trip to see this bird.

The Pine Flycatcher is a female.  In a time of year when males are supposed to be singing their hearts out, this bird hasn't sang once in front of the many observers.  It has been giving a call note that sounds similar to a Dusky Flycatcher, but is lower in pitch and is pretty different.  The eyering on the bird, or, teardrop shaped eyering behind the eye is similar to that of the Western Flycatcher complex.  Most empids don't show the completely lower bright orange mandible as this bird shows.  It's amazing how some birders like Dave can pick stuff out like this and know that they have something interesting.  This bird also has a bit of a crest on it's head.

The Pine Flycatcher discovery reminds me that we should never stop birding.  In this passion and hobby, it is truly one where you never know what you might find when you walk out the door.

The female Pine Flycatcher has given it's chasers and observers everything they could possibly want for views out of an ABA first.  I'm thankful I was able to enjoy it so close with some awesome people and see a piece of history in front of me.

As for the Pine Flycatcher, who knows what inclined it to show up in this remote area of southeastern Arizona.  It was an amazing discovery by Dave, and one that has had many folks at the edge of their seats.  For me it was my 498th life bird (all in the ABA).  With my first summer eastern birding trip around the corner, I should hit the 500 mark very soon.  In the meantime, keep birding.  There are obviously some epic things waiting to be discovered...


  1. You crushed it! As a flycatcher lover, I was very excited to hear about this bird. I enjoyed all of the info about indentification. Looking forward to your future posts.

    1. Thanks Josh! You know, Flycatchers have been growing lately on me more too. Especially the empids..