Sunday, December 03, 2006

Vermilion Flycatcher

Got an email from Paul saying he and Ken were out at a new location: North Lake Jessup Conservation Area. There, they found a Vermilion Flycatcher that was earlier reported during a November bird count in the area.

I have been trying to track down this species for 3 years with only email posts and roundabout directions to go by. Once I tried to follow the directions, I either got lost or the bird in question was not there.

This time Paul provided not only photographic proof but exact directions to the spot they had all found the bird. I wanted to head there right away but had other commitments and would have to wait another day or so hoping the bird would remain in the same spot.

Good thing I stopped biting my nails 20 years ago or I would have been searching for Band-aids...

Next opportunity to head for the bird would be after banding at Wekiva. Not the best time to hunt for birds since I wouldn't arrive until at least 11 AM, but you take what you can get. So, I bolted from the banding station as soon as possible and made my way through the lefts and rights toward the area.

I did make it to the spot by 11 AM on the dot. Following the precise directions provided, I head down the trail and made my way through the ancient oak woods and emerged in a pasture area at the northern edge of Lake Jessup on a clear and warm day. Here were the lone oaks described to me and the weedy growth areas teaming with sparrows.

Sparrows would draw me back here later. I had a flycatcher to try and find in this vast pasture land.

I began by taking in the vista and then slowly walked toward the lone oaks sprouting from the gold and dried brown grasses, scanning the vegetation as I stopped and started. The bird was seen near the water perched on a sign on one day and in an oak another.

As I moved the binoculars from left to right I stopped quickly by the time I got to the cattails about 200 yards ahead of me. There it was! A single dot of brilliant red against the rich greens of the lakeside plants. Vermilion Flycatcher? Check!

I was honestly happy enough with this view. I got the bird and a positive ID with the binoculars. So what if it was from far away. My cameras wouldn't register much more than a speck out there so why even worry. Instead, I decided to move a little closer to the smallest oak out there using it as a blind to get a few feet closer and be able to enjoy the fact that it was indeed here.

Then something weird happened. The bird flew directly at me! It landed in the small oak I was approaching and began to preen while perched in the center branches.

Every now and then it would fly out of the tree to grab a quick bite and land at the tree top and look at me. I was shooting film from 15 feet away. Like I say, birds dig me.

Vermilion Flycatcher

I took a lot of shots of this bird. For some reason, my trusty digital just ended up giving me extremely grainy shots. That's why I carry 2 cameras. As long as they keep processing film, I am safe.

Vermilion Flycatcher

The flycatcher and I spent at least 30 minutes together. It would continue to feed and then head back into the branches to preen. Eventually, it headed off into the dense forest edge and disappeared.

Vermilion Flycatcher

It was a magical morning out in the pasture. Just me and this gorgeous little bird. It was the first time I had been to this location and definitely would not be the last.

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