Friday, January 20, 2012

CA - unidentified empid - 01/17

 Update January 25th; Both Dan Cooper and Jay Keller have been kind enough to comment on this bird, both of them coming to the same conclusion - this bird looks find for a 'western' (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran) flycatcher. Since specific identification appears to depend entirely on call notes uttered by the males on the breeding grounds, the identification can't be taken any further. As it happens, Gareth Rees has just sent two more images of the same bird, one of them being the only profile shot we have so far. It shows, rather nicely, the obvious shaggy 'crest' that was so visible on the bird in the field and noticed by the entire group. Thanks very much to Dan and Jay for commenting, and to Gareth for supplying additional images.

Images appear courtesy of Gareth Rees;

Just back from a really fantastic two week tour of Arizona and California with Birdfinders. We had a thoroughly nice and enthusiastic group, and some extremely exciting birding. Ironically, my first post from the trip depicts a bird that eluded definitive identification. Whilst checking some Lesser Goldfinches feeding in an Alder at Sweetwater Summit in San Diego, I was totally thrown off balance when this empidonax flycatcher flew in to view. Having seen Gray, Hammond's and possibly Dusky the previous week in Arizona, this bird struck me as immediately different, most notably in the bill shape and color. The entire lower mandible appeared to uniform pale orange with little to no darkening at the tip. Moreover, the base of the bill was extremely broad reminding me much of Acadian Flycatcher. I raised the alert with my group and over the next 15 minutes we wrestled between views and photos. Included below, three of my better shots, though several of our party achieved much better results than I. Hopefully, some of those images can be added to this post in the not too distant future. 

 unidentified empidonax - Sweetwater Summit, San Diego, CA. January 17th, 2012. Most of my initial views were much like this with the bill looking notably broad at the base, and somewhat long and uniformly pale-orange throughout.

 unidentified empidonax - Sweetwater Summit, San Diego, CA. January 17th, 2012. The bird regularly flicked its tail upward versus the distinctive downward flick of Gray Flycatcher seen the previous week in Arizona.

  unidentified empidonax - Sweetwater Summit, San Diego, CA. January 17th, 2012. Distinct shaggy crest,obvious during most views, and again the largely pale lower mandible noatble in this shot. Seemingly broken eye-ring, narrow at the top, and much broader and pointed at the rear. Primary projection appeared medium to short, though wasn't seen well in the field. Hopefully, the better images to come will reveal more on this. Wings rather brown with low contrast between tertial edges and wing bars compared to my memory of 'eastern' empids (Acadian, Yellow-bellied and Least). I initially considered the possibility of an 'eastern-type' empid but review of the images has drawn me back, quite sensibly I think, to 'Western' Flycatcher, either Pacific-slope or Cordilleran. The bird wasn't heard vocalizing. 

Just added - three more images courtesy of tour participant Dr. Bill Dixon;

As always, all comments welcome.


1 comment:

Dan Cooper said...

Hi James!

Looks good for Pacific-slope, one of the more expected of the Empids in winter, and probably the most common after Gray, and a suburban park in San Diego is as good a place as any to find one wintering. Almond-shaped eye-ring and all-yellow mandible are good marks. With those two features, it's hard to turn it into anything else. Tail-flicking up rules out Gray. Plus, it looks exactly like a PSFL, so again, if the shoe fits...

Dan Cooper