Monday, November 29, 2010

Tufted Flycatcher Instead of a Brown Shrike

The brown shrike in northern CA went missing again, but the tufted flycatcher at Big Bend NP was refound, so yesterday morning I flew to Midland-Odessa, TX to be in position to drive 250 miles down to the park. I arrived about 1:30 PM and waited until 9:15 when Bob Ake--the birder from VA doing a full ABA big year--finally was able to get there. I watched several college football games that were not very exciting except for the LSU/Arkansas tussle.

We took off in our rental car only to have a flat 20 miles down the road. Bob managed in the dark to get the tire changed, and we returned to the airport to get a new vehicle. All of this meant we did not get to sleep at Fort Stockton until 1 AM. 5:40 came all too quickly, but we wanted to make sure we arrived at Big Bend plenty early. Unfortunately, in my haste to get to the site, I was pulled over just as I arrived by 2 very serious park police who pointed out that as I had passed them a few 100 hundreds back I was doing 54 in a 30 zone. My explanation that we were anxious to see the flycatcher did not make a bit of difference. They were "by the book" guys including insisting that we stay seated in our car.

As soon as they finished giving me a ticket, we jumped out and saw a birder--Jay Hand from Tucson, AZ--with his camera taking pics of the tufted flycatcher. It was a cool but sunny morning, and we joined in the photo parade. The bird is small, and mostly stayed 20 feet up in a large cottonwood doing his very animated flycatching routine. As a result my 2 photos above are not quite as good as I would have liked, but definitely show you what a tufted flycatcher looks like (click on the photos to enlarge). This is only the 5th record of this bird in the US, but is the 2nd one that I have seen.

We ran into a woman birder who had been on a pelagic trip with us back in the summer. She and another birder, and Bob and I took a stroll around the grassy area with a variety of trees checking out what other birds were around. It was a flycatcher morning--vermillion, ash-throated, and black and say's phoebes were feeding along with the tufted. We saw 29 birds today, and the tufted flycatcher raises the YTD to 695.

About 10 AM we decided to start back toward Midland-Odessa to make sure we got back in plenty of time to catch our flight to Phoenix. A streak-backed oriole was found near Yuma, AZ yesterday by Paul Lehman, so we are in Phoenix tonite and will drive early tomorrow morning to try to see the oriole. As we drove this morning we also heard that the brown shrike was found again, and a lapwing was found yesterday in Storrs, CT. Our plan is to fly to San Francisco tomorrow evening where Wes Fritz will pick us up for the 5 hour drive up to Arcata, CA to look for the shrike. Stay tuned!


  1. Congrats on topping the official record and matching the unofficial record. Unreported "records" are always a bit troubling. The way we can all follow bird by bird progress with blogs, etc is nice. I'm sure ther have bee nights when the last thing you wanted to do was post another update. For this reader, your effort to share has been much appreciated. Now go smash the records this last month and then take a long nap on New Years Day!

  2. Glad I can read the blog to see where you've been and where you're going! You are becoming as hard to track as all those rarities! Keep having fun without those speeding tickets! xo

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