Flying with Scissors

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.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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!

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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”.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

It is the tail coloring and shape that gets all the fanfare. Deep forks with wispy 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.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

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.

28 thoughts on “Flying with Scissors”

    1. Thanks Reed! It was a joy to watch it fly around with that magnificent tail out – just wish I could have executed a little better on the shots. Appreciate you coming by.

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  1. If you collect the derivatives left over from all that rounding, you can make millions. Poor girl. I hope she wasn’t blonde? One thing a mask is good for is cursing under you breath. That’s a beautiful flycatcher that makes a cool X with it’s split tail.

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    1. That sounds like it would be a great Superman movie plot! She was not blonde, but doesn’t set a good example for the brunettes. I am sure she was assuming I had a big happy smile under that mask. Definitely one of the better tails I’ve had the privilege of seeing in person – the Cuckoos sport a nice tail as well, but they lack that deep split. Wonder if anyone has considered making them the corporate logo for a Cross-Fit organization ha. Thanks for dropping in Timothy.

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      1. Oh! The tail on the bird. The switch from the math challenge brunette to flycatcher didn’t click in immediately so I got confused over who’s tail you were talking about having the privilege of seeing in person.

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      2. If we were in good old England you could to The Tails of two Birdies. Then there’s always the Tell Tale Tails to keep in the spirit of Halloween.

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    1. Thank you Siobhan, it was definitely a joy to experience this beautiful specimen in the wild. If you are lucky maybe one will head up to the northwest for you. Appreciate you coming by and checking out the latest bird finds.

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    1. Thank you Donna – assume you are referring mainly to the beautiful bird as my execution left a lot of room for improvement ha. Always appreciate you taking the time to drop in and see what’s happening here at Intrigued.

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    1. Definitely agree Rudi. Always amazed when a bird feature is both beautiful and functional at the same time. Wonder if our local Flycatchers were jealous when they saw how maneuverable this adaptation made them in the air. Kind of you to drop in.

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    1. I try to be amicable to clerks in remembrance of my many years clerking and stocking at a large grocery store to pay for college – but my displeasure is more pointed to the apparent condition of our general schooling. Cutting a number in half is a fundamental skill assuredly needed to work a register, build a ship, divide up an M&M bag with your friend or more important to my OCD – hang a picture in the middle of a wall (we do make it harder on us as we didn’t go metric). I also know from clerking that even back in my day, you could put a price in as 1@2 for XX.XX if you had trouble having to halve up to 9 once rounding to the zero. I used my blog as my frustration outlet instead of making any comments to the clerk beyond giving her the answer before she headed off to get the math crutch. hehehe.

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  2. Oh boy, you wonder about why our education system is in dire need of upgrading… maybe not.
    I love these fly catchers. I really love watching them catch and eat grasshoppers. They are a true joy to watch on the open prairies of the Western States.
    Question? Why do they not cross the Mississippi River? It really isn’t that big of a barrier (I would think).
    Careful with that foot!

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    1. The other thing I have really been noticing as of late with a number high school aged relatives graduating and heading off to college – the art of being able to handwrite is GONE. We get thank you cards that we cannot even read (no cursive of course). Appreciate the thought of course, but wow, can’t imagine having to write on a whiteboard in front of executives without basic penmanship skills, much less the STEM stuff.

      Completely unable to answer the question regarding their fear of the Mighty Mississippi. I would try the excuse of food supply, but there are plenty of Dragons and other Flycatcher prey east of the river. Next time I am come upon a knowledgeable birder I’ll pose that quandary and see what they have to say.

      This damn foot is starting to annoy me now – I’ll willingly give an injury a week to recover if I stress it good, but anything beyond that is just a body part begging for sympathy and I have no time for pansy parts. We are going to have a mind to foot discussion later tonight and it better shape up or we are going to have it out with Therabands until it cries uncle.

      On that note, thanks for dropping in CJ and hoping you are all mended up now!

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      1. B- you would have made a great military officer with that approach to injuries. The no whining darn (fill in the body part) was a way of life for many years. Problem is that when you retire the body parts only yell louder!😂🤣

        I am currently at 95%. Not sure that 100% is ever obtainable anymore.🤔 Never the less I will just keep moving forward until the Grim reaper catches me.👻

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      2. I probably owe my injury disposition to my father who did happen to be in the Korean War (no “conflict” word to be used in my house), but I think that approach was just instilled from an early age with his father and on down the line – those German immigrants were solid. You can ask my brothers, I had my share of dings and bloodshed growing up and guessing dad didn’t want me overthinking it as I matured – I haven’t told my body I retired yet hehehehe.

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    1. I am noticing a workforce deficiency as of late, but my wife has written it off as too many job openings and not enough willing people – then she says I’m becoming cranky in my retirement which I completely DISAGREE with ha! Foot has been slower that expected to respond (which IS making me cranky by the way) and need to figure out what the delay is – grinding out 19 extra miles after the initial injury probably didn’t help at all. Appreciate the well wishes and for dropping in Cheryl!

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  3. Got a kick out of the title of this post. Love seeing these birds here in Texas, and I’ve never gotten a bird-in-flight photo half as good as yours. Wonderful sighting, keep the adventures coming!

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  4. I was playing around with a number of different titles – that one just seemed to stick hehehe. I wish I had better access to this beautiful bird. As I noted, I’ve seen them while we were spending our Januaries at the Texas Gulf Coast and then along the Rio Grande, but those specimens were really skittish and didn’t give me a good chance to photograph them (not that I did a very good job with the less skittish one here ha). Don’t sell yourself short, I am often amazed at the shots you share with us. As I always tell my wife, the key is never show anyone the mound full of failures on the digital darkroom floor. Thanks for coming by Sam, appreciate you taking the time.

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