Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mystery Flycatcher

RIP, mystery flycatcher
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Well, inbetween awaiting our baby's grande entrada (sometime in the next week), getting adjusted to my first job in "managing" instead of "doing" wildlife habitat restoration, and working on two pretty substantial blog posts (one on environmental truth-in-advertising and the other, a review of three natural history books I read this summer about 3 different regions (Delmarva, Manhattan, and Appalachia), I have still managed to do a little gardening (another forthcoming post). When I went out to plant radishes and spinach yesterday (and of course, the squirrels are eagerly hunting down the seeds already this morning), I saw this fella, dead on our deck. We have small windows, but I'm not sure if he cracked himself into the window, or died of another cause.

I'm pretty certain that he is a flycatcher (note the slender, orange lower beak) and I think he's a newly molted yellow-bellied flycatcher (please send this post to any birder friends for assistance!). His description doesn't seem to match Least Flycatcher or Acadian Flycatcher at all, and certainly not Baltimore's only common flycatcher - the Alder Flycatcher. However, this identification poses an interesting ornithological problem, as the Baltimore Bird Club ranks the Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher as an "accidental" spring migrant and a "rare" fall migrant, with the birds totally absent (none on record) in the wintering and breeding seasons.
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The USGS "bird lab" at NPWRC states that the yellow belly's summer habitat is "low, wet areas within coniferous forest" as far south as northern Minnesota and Northeastern Pennsylvania. It's wintering habitat? Yeah...COFFEE PLANTATIONS and similar shrubby habitats with lots of insects.
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So let me describe to you our little urban hipster hamlet and perhaps someone can help me figure out why this little guy ended up here..dead. We live in a 1940s neighborhood with fair tree cover (35-50%), almost entirely hardwoods (maple, oak, mulberry) with occasional planted evergreens that do well in our briefly harsh winters, notably Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce. We have a stream (and streamside park) one block away, with large hardwoods (oaks, maples, sycamore) growing 100'+ (most years we have small numbers of nesting ducks and LOTS of raptors.
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One thing we do have, that might lend itself to a stopover by a flycatcher, is BATS. We have no shortage of mosquitos, flies, or wasps, so there are ample flying insects available for food. Our yard has a little pond, and the spiders and frogs consider the pond to be a nice place to hang out and get fat.
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But still? How did this guy end up here? And do I have the ID wrong?

2 comments:

swamp4me said...

My husband, who is a pretty avid birder, says it looks like a Northern Parula Warbler to him.

Swamp Thing said...

Wow - he might be right - the bird list categorizes them as common migrants in the spring & fall. I'll look into their habitat needs a little more and find out if they are more common in the 'hood than I thought! Thanks!