Here's today's update: This morning I sat outside for almost two hours
trying to relocate the flycatcher, but it is apparently gone. Lacking
any more information about this bird (particularly my failure to note
anything about primary projection), it will forever remain identified as
But it's fun to speculate about these things, so here's my rampant
speculation about what it *might* have been.
At first I was only considering the usual eastern species: Least, Alder,
and Willow (ruling out Yellow-bellied because of the color, and Acadian
because of the range). But several people have mentioned the possibility
of a western vagrant, and the more I've thought about it, the more
likely that seems. I think the possibility of a western Empid getting
its signals crossed and migrating east instead of south is at least as
likely, maybe more so, as an eastern Empid just forgetting to migrate.
So now we have to consider the western Empids as well. I lived for many
years in Colorado and saw and heard Hammond's, Dusky, and Cordilleran
(Western at the time) Flycatchers, but that was 30 years ago, and
whatever I used to know about those birds has long ago been lost. So I
need to rely on what I read and what others tell me. Of the western
Empids, the most likely candidates are Hammond's and Dusky, ruling out
Gray, Buff-breasted, and Cordilleran/Pacific-slope based on coloration
(there was no hint of anything yellowish).
The most obvious characteristics that stood out on this bird were a
bold, obvious eye ring, and constant, incessant wing flicking (with less
constant tail wagging). In hindsight, the eye ring is leading me to
retract my earlier speculation about Alder/Willow.
Which leaves us with three possibilities: Least, Hammond's, and Dusky.
Moving on to other field marks, this bird had a bit of a crest, giving
it that flat-top flycatcher appearance, which would tend to go against
Dusky. Furthermore, Scott's description of Hammond's as "compact in
size, large-headed, small-billed, and relatively short-tailed" fits this
bird to a T. In fact, compact and short-tailed were the first things I
noticed about it. The incessant wing-flicking also has me leaning
towards Hammond's over Dusky.
So now we're down to two: Least or Hammond's. Primary projection would
really help here, but lacking that, which is more likely? Well, neither
is likely, but which is less unlikely? I wish I could recall if I've
seen Least Flycatchers wing-flick so much, but it seems like I would
have remembered if I'd observed that.
So, officially: Empidonax sp. Unofficial speculation: Hammond's. (Or
maybe Least. Or maybe something else.)
Dave G., confused
On 11/16/20 3:43 PM, Scott Morrical wrote:
> I tried to send this earlier, but I think it bounced for some reason. Sorry if this is duplicated. I have quite a bit of field experience with Western empids. That being said, empids are empids, and they are not always identifiable. As Pipit noted, Hammond's does wing-flick and tail-flip a lot. Dusky does both of these things but less frequently on average. The two species are tricky to separate (sometimes impossible) without hearing vocalizations. Hammond's would appear compact in size, large-headed, small-billed, and relatively short-tailed. The primary extension is long (this is one of the best field marks to separate Hammonds from Dusky and Least), but so is that of Alder. The eyering of Hammond's would stand out conspicuously against its dark face, and probably help to eliminate Alder.
> Scott Morrical
> Sent from my iPhone
>> On Nov 16, 2020, at 3:21 PM, David Guertin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> I just went out for a third unsuccessful attempt at refinding the flycatcher. No luck, but I did find a Sharp-shinned Hawk in precisely the spot where I last saw the flycatcher. Just sayin'...
>> I'm going to try again in the morning.
>> Dave G.
>>> On 11/16/20 3:01 PM, Susan Fogleman wrote:
>>> So are there folks headed over to Dave’s place to look for this critter? If I lived closer than central NH, I sure would be!
>>> Susan Fogleman
>>> Susan Fogleman
>>> [log in to unmask]
>>> “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
>>> Neil deGrasse Tyson
>>>>> On Nov 16, 2020, at 2:57 PM, Fred and Chris Pratt <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>> I am a bit rusty on western empi's but I think wing-flicking and tail-wagging was considered helpful in separating Hammond's from Dusky Flycatcher and other small empi's. Another tail-wagging western empid is Gray Flycatcher but he is larger, wags tail only.
>>>> Fred Pratt
>>>> On 11/16/2020 11:25 AM, David Guertin wrote:
>>>>> Well, this was a shock. I haven't seen an Empid in over two months, and yet here was one this morning in my yard in Cornwall, braving the mid-November chill. This was one extremely tardy (and probably cold and hungry) flycatcher.
>>>>> Here are the notes I submitted to eBird: My first impression was that of a stubby, short-tailed flycatcher that suggested Eastern Wood-Pewee, but the combination of bold white wing bars and obvious eye ring made it clearly an Empid. Constant wing-flicking and tail wagging. Gray throat, grayish sides. The prominence of the eye ring has me leaning towards Alder over Willow, but this time of year with fresh plumage, who knows? I also can't rule out Least, but the behavior seemed more Alderish. Found in the wild raspberry patch between our yard and the adjacent farm fields.
>>>>> I'm trying to recall if I've seen Least Flycatchers do that constant nervous wing-flicking thing, but I can't recall, and my field guides don't note that for Least.
>>>>> Any flycatcher gurus want to weigh in? Whatever it was, it was certainly unexpected!
>>>>> Dave G.