Tufted Flycatcher

November 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm (Big Bend National Park, Big Bend National Park TX, Birds - Big Bend TX, Birds - Texas, National Parks, Nature, Photography, TX)

I would not have known about this rare bird at Big Bend National Park if a fellow who worked in Southern Florida hadn’t come through my entrance station on Friday to tell me he drove 30 hours straight to see it after it was posted on the North American Rare Bird Alert.  It was number 731 or something like that for this young man!  Evidently this is only the third US sighting ever of this Mexican bird, as far as I can tell, and the second for Big Bend – the first was in 1991. 
Other people came looking for this addition to their life lists – from Fort Worth, San Antonio, Louisiana…  There was a rumor that a sharp-shinned hawk might have gotten it (gasp!)  But it was still there this morning, first in the open with sun illuminating its cinnamon breast just before I arrived, and then in the shady cottonwoods immediately across from the Daniels Ranch trailhead at Rio Grande Village.  A young fellow from Louisiana located it around 11 a.m., and the San Antonio fellow came running down the trail (bless his heart!) where I was photographing a vermillion flycatcher to tell me he had a “better bird” for me.
I was entranced by its antics – it darted after its prey faster than any flycatcher I’d ever seen, making sharp turns and quick forays from its perch, then when landing, without fail, gave several sharp flicks of its tail – more like “vibrating” it.  It had a single and double noted call, very soft, very flycatchery.  I even heard the snap of its beak a couple of times as it snatched a bug in mid-air.  Eastern, black, and Say’s phoebes were nearby – the first two in the same tree, and the latter by the river.
It amazes me that people travel so far to add a bird to their Life Lists.  My own list is probably 300 something birds – it’s a very casual list.  I’ve been a birder since I was 9 years old, but I’m not sure I’d travel 30 hours for a bird that made a wrong turn in its travels and landed in the US.  But I feel very fortunate that I’ve added another rare bird since being at Big Bend (the first the Colima Warbler) and have spent many blissful hours watching birds here – many of them new for me.
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