Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hammond's Flycatcher

A report was posted to the lists about a Hammond's Flycatcher out at Hal Scott. Several reports were filed over the next few days saying some had relocated the bird, some doubting the ID, some swearing by the ID. I thought I wouldn't go after it as it was the middle of the week and I couldn't find time to head out there for days.

Specialty birds rarely hang around for too long. But the reports kept showing up. What the heck? Might as well go for it.

Detailed directions through the Hal Scott area were provided. Head down this path. Go past THIS rock. Stop at THIS lone orange tree, etc. I wasn't familiar with this part of the preserve but I would have my directions in hand.

Fortunately, when I arrived in the parking area, a few other birders were heading out for the Hammond's. I was getting my cameras together when I heard, "Here for the Hammond's?" in the pre-dawn darkness. "Yep." We were off.

During our mile-long hike we spotted Bluebirds, skittish sparrows, doves and heard Nuthatches and woodpeckers. The flycatcher spot was ahead.

We were told by another birder who had arrived on bike just ahead of us that it was seen in certain spots but usually came close to the trail. After 15 minutes standing on the trail I couldn't take it and headed into the woods toward the creek. I can hardly stand still too long.

I stopped about 100 yards from the trail and stood to listen to the surroundings. Goldfinches. Waxwings. Kinglets. I decided to try and see any of the birds I was hearing way up in the treetops for practice and found a small bird I thought was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet preening up in the branches.

Then it started 'flycatching'! Was this our target bird? Too high up to be sure so I tracked it through the branches. Suddenly, it swooped down toward the creek and foraged, 30 feet in front of me. This WAS the bird.

Hammond's Flycatcher

I got a couple shots for my collection as I was verifying it in my head. I knew I had to alert the others but feared calling out too loudly would scare the bird away. They couldn't see me easily through the trees. Even if they could they were all staring straight up!

"Over here!" I said in a deep enough register that I hoped wouldn't be too bird un-friendly. I kept a lock on the Hammond's and everyone hurriedly rushed to my spot.

Another group of birders arrived and saw our location and hurried over as well. Soon, we had 25 guys oohing and ahhing as shutters clicked and introductions were made. We tracked the bird for 30 minutes before heading out.

Some folks told me they had been out there 4 times so far without seeing the bird. Some had been there once or twice and sat for hour upon hour without seeing it. I walked out on a day I wasn't going to and found it in 15 minutes.

Hammond's Flycatcher

Dumb luck. I'll take it.

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