Well, I finally beat a trail course today that has been putting a serious hurt on me since the day I discovered it. Even owned it being a bit tired from 3 hours of whacking weeds on the lot. Not sure what it is about this course.. wait, I do know – the 4 miles of what seems like continuous climb to start and the 2x repeats of 1 mile vertical climbs at the end have my legs and lungs begging for mercy. The 3 miles on top of the plateau of the big-ass hill aren’t so bad. Yep, basically the start and the end spent traversing the slopes that has been my nemesis – until today! Of course, now I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to make it out of this chair tonight ha. Enough about personal struggles – let’s get to the reason you are here!
Before we go any further, please take a few steps away from your monitor. Can you still read this text without squinting? If so, please take a few more steps back and try again. Please repeat until you reach that optimum distance for this particular post. These shots would be better characterized with finger paints and hoping the extra distance will hide the less than stellar execution.
Warning, tears coming after the jump.
Today we are feature a slope of a different kind – not the kind that brutalizes my body, rather the kind that has feathers and sits in trees. Specifically this is a Pacific-Slope Flycatcher. Hopefully, with the good amount of squinting you can still tell the blob is a bird. Note, this bird is often found trees so I didn’t put this in the “in a Tree” series.
Now for the interesting backstory on this particular specimen. In January, I was able to tin this new addition to my birding list thanks to a successful trip to Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, Texas. This was our first visit to that site and specifically added this year thanks to seeing some rarity alerts prior to heading down for our annual south Texas exploration. One of the targets was a Rose-Throated Becard. A Central American bird, but can push up to the southernmost tips of Texas and Arizona. I’ll kill the suspense on that one – we missed it.
The other one you are currently squinting at. Unlike the Becard, this tiny flycatcher isn’t supposed to be in Texas AT ALL. The Pacific-Slope hangs out on the west coast of North America and follows that down into Central America. Apparently has a deep seeded fear of the Bears and Wolves in Alaska and chooses to stay clear of that dangerous detached state. The worker at the visitor center pointed out the general area where the rare birds had been seen – a small pond area on the left side of the grounds. Linda gave me the stern “don’t be a crazy birder and sprint out of the center” look. I sheepishly looked down and we made our controlled progression to the area and found a few people hanging on the patio. We sat there a while and nothing exciting came our way (birding is hard folks hehehe). We did spot some birders at the other end and headed down there to see what was flapping over there. Upon arrival, they were talking about a recent Pacific sighting got my trigger finger itching. A Flycatcher like bird flew in from the side and landed in a tangle of branches in a rather dark recess on the other side of the pond. Instantly got the The Beast barrel on it and let go with a quick burst before it disappeared. Figured with Flycatcher genes it would pop back to the same spot after nabbing whatever insect it spotted – nope – never came back for the 40+ minutes I hung around. The camera was dialed in for the initial side of the pond which was brighter.
Having no clue what a Pacific-Slope Flycatcher actually looked like at the time, I displayed the best shot I had on the LCD and asked one of the experts there if he could confirm my brief encounter. It was embarrassingly dark, but he took a good look at it and gave me the thumbs up. We came, I saw, I somehow got something in the tin that was confirmed by someone in the know – check +1. Once I got in the digital darkroom I was able to pull out the key field mark – the “teardrop” eyering. You might have to take a few steps closer to your monitor to see that feature.
Now for one additional interesting tidbit before I leave you. This bird has a doppelganger. The Cordilleran Flycatcher is nearly identical with a slightly more inland region that does come just into the western edge of Texas. They were actually considered the same species until 1989. The birds can be distinguished by their song and I am assuming the experts had confirmed that as that was the specific species that was noted for that time/place. Plenty of room to get a better shot in the future, but I’m happy we managed to see it and, all importantly, tin it.