Sunday, July 13, 2008

Flycatchers and Hummingbirds

Well, I finally got a couple shots of that Flycatcher who visits. There may be more than one, this one is much darker than the one I’ve seen previously…and might be bigger, as well. I wish I could get better pictures; this bird and another, were playing ‘chase’…and not in a fun way. It seemed clear to me one was running off the other. At least it stayed around a bit…while watching it in my new, light-gathering binocs; I noted it had a lighter, yellow-ish bill (though the photo doesn’t show it, I noted that while observing it) and very dark feet; and this one, while darker, has well-marked wing bars. I also clearly see a ‘cap’ and did not notice an eye-ring, though you can see it here. That post is not quite 4” in diameter. I’m not at all confident in ID-ing it, but , I’m going to guess it’s not an Olive-sided Flycatcher, in spite of having heard it’s call several times …but a Western Wood-Pewee; I didn’t observe tail-flicking, nor streaking on the flanks, and that certainly doesn’t look like a ‘short tail’. Besides, my online pal suggested Wood-Pewee. What say you?

Having said all this; the bird was dark enough to recall a childhood poem:

Little mouse in gray velvet,
have you had a cheese-breakfast?
There are no crumbs on your coat,
did you use a napkin?
I wonder what you had to eat,
and who dresses you in gray velvet?

Left: Broad-tailed Hummingbird(m)
Right: Black-chinned Hummingbird(m)

I was not home much last weekend and this weekend it seems the hummingbird population has exploded. Last month, I saw twice as many Broad-tailed Hummingbirds as Black-chinned; but now I see maybe twice as many Rufus Hummers as Broad-tailed! It seems the Calliope is shyer and more difficult to observe, but I believe I have at least two males here. Having a chance to watch both sexes makes me believe now, that the hummer I had back in May was, in fact, a Calliope female. It’s tiny size, streaky throat and soft, bee-like sound while flying makes me think so. Unfortunately I didn’t know about the shorter tail and longer wings. Oddly, males are supposed to arrive before females.

Both: Rufus Hummingbird(m)

What a trip! There must be two dozen Hummingbirds in my yard at any given time. I suppose I really should move the feeders farther apart…but I have a hard enough time photographing them as it is. It is astounding how different they look, depending on how the light is working on their feathers. I’ve included a couple extra shots of that little bully; the Rufus Hummingbird…he sure is beautiful but absolutely terrorizes all other hummers. I’ve watched them drive another into the tall grass and hover over them, back and forth inches from the ground for several seconds before leaving. I’ve also seen four or five at a time displaying; tails flared and chirping madly while vying for dominance. The Black-chins are sweet and sit on the feeders, even as I change them. Now that I know the Black-chinned hummers pump their tails like no tomorrow (you'd recognize it as soon as you saw it), it's easy to tell them apart, regardless of the light. But I do wish I could get a photo showing their stunning purple 'collars' like this.

Both: Rufus Hummingbird(m)

Left: Calliope Hummingbird(m)
Right: Rufus Hummingbird(m) with Calliope(f)

I also wish I could capture the different colors that Rufus bird shows. Sometimes he's chocolate brown, sometimes an orange as bright as highly polished broze and sometimes either male or female is so golden they look like a little yellow ball of sunshine. I included some pretty bad pictures here, just to try to show all the color variations that the light makes. Stunning birds, they are!


Chas S. Clifton said...

Your flycatcher might be a Cordilleran -- ask someone who really knows!

Beverly said...

Hi, and thanks for your comment, I appreciate it, very much.

I wonder about the Cordilleran; while they are in the area, it seems to me they're less gray and much more yellowish, over-all. Plus, they have an eye-ring, don't they?

Good guess, especially since my pics are so bad. I'm thinking mine was darker...but I've been told (by one who really does know) that some flycatchers are so difficult to ID, some just mark: Tyrannide species. LOL

Bosque Bill said...

Are you saying the top two photos are of the same bird? Sure look different to me, but then light does play tricks. If they were two birds, I'd say the top looks like an emp. and the bottom the WWP (open vest; the Olive-sided has a 'closed' vest.)

Beverly said...

Well, Bill…I think they are the same bird; but I could be wrong. I was serious when I said that two birds were chasing each other around…I saw this one land and snapped the photo. Then it moved and I followed it and snapped the second shot. I think it the bird I got in the second shot is the same bird…but I’ve been wrong before.

What is an emp? Okay…I looked it up: Empidonax! And there are 15 species…including the ones I’ve considered (Gray, Cordilleran, etc) and OSFC must both be a PeeWee, too, huh; they’re a whole ‘nuther species: Contopus!

Heh heh heh…you’ll have me learned-up in no time!

Anyway, the bird did have a slightly paler belly (open vest?)…though I distinctly remember (as shown in lower photo), that the gray coloring met across his upper chest, below his chin (not unlike the red does on a Western Bluebird). I remember noting ‘light bill, dark feet and saying to myself ‘closed vest’ (which is what I thought meant coloring like what I was seeing). And with the long tail it seems unlikely it is an OSFC to me. I’ve read about the WEPE “They have two wing bars and a dark bill with yellow at the base of the lower mandible.” …so perhaps it was that yellow I saw; as I said…it was some distance!

Anyway, I’m still thinking Western Wood-pewee. Don’t you? I’m telling ya…there was nothing like the creamy yellow I’ve seen on Cordillerans. This guy was dark.

And to both of you: THANK YOU for this discussion! This is how all of us are gonna learn; I seriously appreciate your input.

Anyway, I think I have the wrong idea about what means 'Open-' or 'Closed-vest'.

Bosque Bill said...

Emp. typically perch in vegetation and are hard to see, whereas OSFC and WEPE perch in the open. Vest is the dark sides of the breast contrasting with otherwise white/light belly and flanks... this is more often pronounced in OSFC, absent in Emp. I was taught the OSFC's vest was buttoned at the top and WEPE is open all the way... that is typically what I've seen, though there is enough variation that it isn't a hard-fast rule. The voice's of all the confusing flycatchers are unique and distinctive... it's just a matter of making them sing (I tells ya, youse gonna sing like a boid or youse gonna have cement overshoes.)

Beverly said...

Damn…really? Western PeWee’s (WEPE) ‘vest’ is open all the way? Hmmmmm… THIS bird’s definitely was NOT. And yet, look at that tail; it is not short…is it?

Okay, okay, okay (trying for a Pesci imitation), PERHAPS I have more than one type flycatcher in my yard. Dammit…I need to spend more time out there…AND take more pictures. Strike that; Mo betta pictures!

Just HOW MUCH variation in coloration do these birds exhibit? COULD a WEPE have a closed vest? Could a Cordilleran be dressed in gray velvet? And just how do you people learn this stuff, anyway?

The ONLY song, of such a bird, that I recognize hearing in my yard…is the Cordilleran’s; and I admit I could have that wrong, as well.

Who is about to believe it’s all smoke and mirrors, dis boid stuff!

Bosque Bill said...

If you assert with enough authority, anyone will believe you. :o)

What I said was "typically," which means more than not. I just got a copy of the wonderful, new Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds of North America (thanks to the contest from Charlie of and it has a photo of a Western Wood-peewee with only the slightest vest and it is closed at the top.

Experience and observation and curiosity and delight, these are the things that help us to slowly learn "our" birds... and even the experienced learn new things all the time.

Beverly said...

I like how you think, Bill.

One of the things I like to do is use Google’s ‘Images’ search engine (found in upper left corner of their home page). Searching a bird from here, results in tens of thousands of images (of varying quality) of the single bird; though I’ll admit, sometimes the picture doesn’t match the caption…even when following the link; but then, other times they’re matched up down the page to which the link leads.

This is a pretty good example:

Though there are only some 12,000 results. Oddly, Google offers a Related Search: Olive-sided Flycatcher !!! Too funny, all things considered.

Speaking of your new book…what do you think of it, other than your happiness at winning such a prize?

I think I’ll ask folks for their favs…


Chas S. Clifton said...

Listen to the songs and compare with recordings at sites like All About Birds.

A Western Wood-PeeWee won't sound like a Cordie, for instance.

The little flycatchers may be easier to sort by sound.

Beverly said...

Ahhhhhhhhh, GREAT suggestion, Chas and I’m doing that, when I can! I dunno though, when actually feeding (here at the feeders), the birds don't really do much singing.

However, at Bill's suggestion I've begun just what you suggested... and (!!!) he gave me yet another place to hear bird calls. We're not all that far from Arazona…and perhaps birds in your area speak the same dialect; give this one a try:

I’ve included a link on my blog.

Thanks again!

Bosque Bill said...

Oh, I'm a bad, bad teacher. I apologize to Bev and everyone. I got it exactly wrong.

I was up in the Manzano Mountains this morning and saw a lovely Western Wood-peewee, then noticed that he had a closed vest and it hit me that I told you all wrong.

The OSFC has a vest that is open. The WEPE sometimes has a vest that is buttoned at the top.

Please, edit or delete my previous references so I don't steer anyone else wrong with my bird droppings.

So, sorry.

Beverly said...

Awwwwwwwwwww... it's all here in the comments where only a few go...and you left some wiggle room, to boot! I wouldn't worry about it... You've made the correction; that's good enough for me!

(The program won't let anyone edit; sorry. I hope you don't delete your comments; you'll ruin the 'flow'...doncha know!)