Friday, June 9, 2017

The Rose-throated Becard

Do you ever have those birds that you feel like you should have, but you don't yet?  I sure have some of those.  The Rose-throated Becard has been one of those such birds for me as of late.  Yesterday on June 8th, 2017, I had a chance to get the species for the first time as a life bird.  But it wasn't my first attempt for the species either!

The Rose-throated Becard is quite a rarity in the United States, reaching southeastern Arizona and southern Texas on and off.  Some years this species may be present, and other years it may be completely absent.  Rose-throated Becards were reliable at one point in Arizona, and then followed that up by going undetected for years.  A few strays started to show up on several occasions after the reliable birds left.  The reliable birds were seen at a road side rest area in Patagonia, where they nested and were seen in almost every attempt by observers.  And then, they left.  Last year, a male showed up in Graham County's Cluff Ranch, one that stayed put and was chase-able for some time, but I didn't make an attempt at it.  It was something I actually regretted for awhile.

And then 2017 came around.  Two pairs of Rose-throated Becards were found along the Santa Cruz River in Santa Cruz County rather close together: one pair at Tubac and the other at Tumacacori.  A few birds were chase-able and would require patient searches at Tubac before another pair was found at Tumacacori.  Once again, I waited on this bird and when I finally went it was when the birds weren't so cooperative as before in Tubac.  I then missed a bird at Tumacacori by about 15 minutes that Andrew Core and Laurens Halsey relocated.  After a 7 hour search earlier this year, I came up empty.  And then the birds at Tumacacori started to become reliable again.  Because birder Tim Helentjaris had the patience to really give these birds a good search, he discovered that they had built a nest within the thick riparian corridor along the Santa Cruz River.  And this nest was visited often by the Becards, and once again, many birders were flooding to the spot to see the rarity, and a cool bird at that.  Yesterday on June 8th, I left my house early in Glendale, and drove south to Tumacacori to the area where the Rose-throated Becards, a male and female pair constructing a nest, have been seen.  When I arrived on site, I heard the birds immediately.  But following the directions on how to find the nest confused me and I spent nearly two dumb hours of brainless anger trying to find the nest.  And when I did, there was a serious statement in my mind, "duh Tommy, you freaking stupid idiot".

The nest that the Becards build is a huge globular shaped nest, obvious to most but then un-obvious to one.  But once I saw it I saw it.  Before I finally found the nest after trying to find it and looking in the wrong direction of mis-understanding from clear directions, I was thrilled to get my first ever looks at a female Rose-throated Becard several times.  She was gathering nesting material.  At one point, I briefly got to see the sooty-colored male.  It was hard for me to get good looks at the female at first.  It didn't help when one out of a thousand obnoxious Phainopepla's that were around decided to chase her away.

Rose-throated Becards may take weeks to build their huge nests, and they use the same area year after year.  Last year, they probably nested because there is another nest downstream from this one that is obvious and hanging directly over the Santa Cruz River.  After my frustration of searching reached it's peak, things finally went uphill from there after I found the nest.  I than began to see the Becards on a regular basis over the next hour, and I eventually got great looks at both sexes.  Here is the male, an unmistakable sooty/light gray colored bird overall with a bright red throat.  And like his mate, he was collecting nesting material too.

Rose-throated Becards are flycathers, but aren't in the Tyrant Flycatcher family that is so familiar in North America.  They are a lot different of a bird than Tyrant Flycatchers.  After I had great views of the male, I had some great views of the female.

Mrs. Becard sat on the nest for a few seconds while I snapped a few distant photographs.  Here's to hoping that this pair of birds successfully raises a brood this year, and here's to hoping that it becomes regular again in southeastern Arizona.  As this impressive and huge globular nest is being built, it may be awhile before it is officially completed..