Friday, October 25, 2019

PACIFIC SLOPE FLYCATCHER in Hadley! A first state record!

Pacific slope Flycatcher (photo lightened up which washed out most of the yellowish tint), Hadley, MA, Oct 25, 2019
Listening for the flycatcher, Hadley, MA, Oct 25, 2019
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', Hadley, MA, Oct 25, 2019
Hermit Thrush, Hadley, MA, Oct 25, 2019
After hearing from a number of expert birders who listened to the recording I obtained yesterday of the empid flycatcher found by Joe on Wednesday the consensus was that the bird was a Pacific slope Flycatcher (more about my initial interaction with the bird yesterday at the bottom of this paragraph).  This would be a first state record of the species (pending acceptance by MARC) and therefore a mega rarity to be sure.  The plan was to make it back to the location this morning with a number of other birders to try to get more audio recordings to seal the identification.  I was not intending to try for it until it warmed up a bit later in the morning but I got a text early saying the bird was back and occasionally being seen so I hustled over from the nearby Honey Pot area of Hadley.  I arrived and the bird was not in view but after a bit of exploring by a number of birders on site it was located again and gave limited and quick views and was occasionally heard calling with both weep and ting calls. I managed a few crappy shots as well as some audio of the 'ting' call. My photos are marginal at best and when lightened most of the yellowish tinge got washed out but the overall build is there.  Additional (and much better) photos as well as audio recordings obtained by others.  Once the ID was established the report was sent out to others to come and see the bird.  It is exceedingly rare to have any part in finding a new species for the Massachusetts state list out here in the valley.  Obviously the species is a new county bird for me bringing my Hampshire County list up to 296.  It was a nice collaboration of a variety of people both confirming the identification and gathering evidence for eventual acceptance to the state list.  My eBird report from the morning can be found at the following link.
Gray Catbird, Hadley, MA, Oct 24, 2019
Hermit Thrush, Hadley, MA, Oct 24, 2019
Blue headed Vireo, Hadley, MA, Oct 24, 2019
Palm Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 24, 2019
Song Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 24, 2019
Dawn with fog and a sliver of a moon, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 24, 2019
Eastern Comma, Herman Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Oct 24, 2019
After seeing an eBird report from Joe about a 'traill's' flycatcher in Hadley on Wednesday I immediately contacted him to see the photos as any empid flycatcher at this point is likely to be a rarity (his list here.).  Once I got a look at the photos I was certain the bird was not a 'traill's' but I was not certain what it was but I had some ideas, all of which would be rarities.  I sent the eBird list out to a number of people and the consensus was it was very interesting and might be a 'western' flycatcher (either a Pacific slope or Cordilleran Flycatcher).  This group is very difficult to tell apart and were previously considered a single species.  The only real way to determine the species is by vocalization so a silent bird is tough (or impossible) to ID.  Either species is extremely rare around here so I figured I would try for it on Thursday morning.  The morning started off very cold with temperatures around freezing so I knew the flycatcher would not be active early on.  I spent the first couple hours of the morning exploring a few areas of the Honey Pot and had a decent selection of sparrows, a late Common Yellowthroat and 40+ Yellow rumped Warblers (more on warblers for the day here).  Once the sun started warming stuff up and burned off the fog I headed over to the area in Hadley where Joe had the flycatcher and walked the relatively small area and although I turned up some good stuff including a late Blue headed Vireo, four Gray Catbirds and five Hermit Thrushes I initially found no sign of the flycatcher.  After being there almost an hour I heard a flycatcher call that sounded a lot like a Pacific slope Flycatcher.  It called twice and then stayed silent for a few minutes before it  called more distantly (which I tried to get a recording of but the results were not good).  I tried and tried to get a view of it over the next hour and the best I got was a single call and a sputtering call but otherwise the bird was silent.  I sent my recording out to a number of people and the rest is history (covered above)

****Update***  The flycatcher was seen every day since continuing through at least Tuesday the 29th.

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