Decided to take a rest from the Halloween Trail packing and relax a bit in front of the keyboard. Exhausted from the effort. No so much the physical effort, rather the drain on the brain. Feel like I’m back in school taking spatial relation assessments trying to organize all decorations into the smallest spaces I can get. Every year the trail gets a little bigger, but my space is currently fixed. Speaking of schooling, what the hell is the required curriculum these days for kids in high school.. hell, kids in college. Maybe I am getting old and crotchety post retirement, but really, is math.. specifically division a testable skill anymore!?! Went to Michael’s the other day to restock my foam pumpkin supply. I grabbed a white one for a change only to find out it was missing the tag when I got to the checkout. Always make a point to check that – apparently forgot or was too damn eager to get out of the store in order to remove the @#!$%@!#$%!@ mask thanks to our tax evading governor playing dictator. I point out the missing tag and noted it was the same price as another one in my cart (with tag). They were 50% off and normally $29.99. Figured she would simply scan the one with the tag twice .. nope..to her defense, maybe that was to keep the inventory count correct. I offered to go get another one as it was my mistake. Nope – she decided to just ring it in as one-off. Nix that inventory thought. Then the girl looks at me and says “half of 29.99, I’m not good at math, do you mind, I have to go get a calculator. Blink, blink begin to open mouth, close mouth, blink, blink and respond with an “okay, but its $15.00” not wanting to go anywhere near the half cent nightmare. She gets calculator, punches in the numbers, hits the results button and proclaims $15.00 (she can round, ‘cuz I know that isn’t what the display said). Then she has a great idea “I think every register should have a calculator!”. Thankfully she couldn’t read my lips. Round up/down and split the change – grade school skills. I spot the scissors next to the register and have visions of grabbing them and stabbing myself in the heart to end my misery. A perfect lead in to today’s featured feathered friend.
First off, these shots are NOT good by any means. I tried step you down a bit from the last post so the fall wouldn’t be as bad. Not as a excuse as I f’p (fstop of course) all the time, but this series was taken right before my camera body took a failure. Per the last post, my 7000 lost a shutter that day and I should have noticed I was getting a drag on all the shots taken prior to that. Cleaned them up as best I could – my apologies. What you are looking at is a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher.
Hit the jump to learn the backstory on this wayward Flycatcher.
Not just any Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher.. a “fuzzy” Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher! Okay, you got me, this is the standard Scissor, however, this one was definitely lost. For those not familiar with this rather beautiful bird, they spend their winters in Central America and then push northward into middle America (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and spread a bit into the neighboring states to the east and west during breeding season. A relatively narrow region from a migrating bird perspective. It is not supposed to be wandering the broke state of Illinois.
This specimen was located in Havana.. wait for it, wait for it… wait for it.. Illinois!. The Havana substation comes through once again. Talked a bit about that location in the Dickcissel post (link here). That happened to be the same place the other rarity was found at the very same time – the Western Kingbird (link here and here). The Western is more pervasive across the western half of the US, but like the Scissor, falls short of crossing the Mississippi.
These two birds have the distinction of being my first real rarities. Sure, we get some interesting visitors to Emiquon NWR (outside Havana), but those region defying species show up there every year and quite frankly time for Cornell to update their region coding. The Western Flycatcher and its kin the Scissor-Tailed showed up out of the blue and at the corner of Nowhere and Hayseed. Grabbed my camera and decided to see what it was all about. Took a bit to triangulate the coordinates that were provided – partly due to not believing them and assuming they were giving the standard Snowy Owl obscuring fudge factors. Got out, looked around and didn’t see any flying scissors (probably should have looked to see what they looked like before I trekked down there ha). Eventually gave up and went after the Western. Later that night Linda noted the Scissor was spotted there again that very day – dammit!
A few days later, headed back down there and this time we spotted another truck on the side of the road… in the middle of nowhere so that was comforting – or a serial killer in which case.. not comforting. Eventually made my way over to the other truck and noticed the camera – relief. Asked him if he had seen it and he responded that it was there just a few minutes ago. Blink, blink, open mouth, close mouth… Once the shock wore off, prompted him for a reference point. He pointed to a nearby fence (topped with a fairly wicked set of barbed wire). As soon as I finished following the vector of the arm he added “and there it is”.
Sure enough, a beautiful Flycatcher was perched between the barbs. Graciously thanked the other birder and went to work. As far as Flycatchers go, it had the standard profile of the larger variety along with the slender profile, stout bill and rounded head. It wasn’t until it took flight to nab an unsuspecting insect that I realized just how unique and gorgeous this specimen was. They have bright reddish orange patches directly under the shoulders. First impression was this one had gotten its wings nicked on the barb wire. They have an orangeciclish coloring that extends down their flanks and underwings.
It is the tail coloring and shape that gets all the fanfare. Deep forks with whispy outer feathers are revealed once it takes flight. Bad enough trying to reduce the softness while on the wire, once in flight it would have been more detailed to bring out the fingerpaints. Scrounged a couple of shots so you could at least get a feel for how dramatic that tail is.
According to Cornell’s website, that tail is functional as it is pretty allowing it to make impressive aerial maneuvers to snag even the spastic of insects. One very interesting tidbit they reference is their ability to “wander widely” as they migrate between their breeding and wintering grounds showing up anywhere “in North America”. Not sure what the criteria is for the region maps, but I definitely do not get that from the way they have it presented. For the record, this specimen spent the entire summer here and even showed up the following year and this time with a mate. Unfortunately, that is the last we have seen of them, failing to show for the last two years. It sure was a pleasure getting to locally experience such a wonderful bird.
As a note, I did get shots of another one while visiting Anahuac NWR a couple of years back. Hoping those came out better.
Need to get back to work. Managed to bang my bad foot into my tractor blade at the exact point where it is still swollen – the sharp pain is FINALLY starting to subside. Must get back on the trails soon or I’m going to go nuts.