[Tweeters] The Variegated Flycatcher Experience

Gina Sheridan gsherida8502 at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 8 13:19:45 PDT 2008

Like many birders who were sifting through the flurry of posts to Inlanders & Tweeters, I was astonished to read that there was a Variegated Flycatcher that had been discovered in Windust Park by Mike & MerryLynn Denny. A bonafide South American bird with an exotic sounding name had landed along the Snake River, and it was merely a two hour drive away from me. Obviously, it was time to twitch!

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon (9/07/08), Harold & Karen Cottet, and I arrived at Windust Park. As the spectacle unfolded, there were several birders already intently peering into some large ash trees. After some good directions from Scott Downes and Carl from Seattle, our first glimpses of the bird were partially obscured by the thick foliage of a Russian Olive. However, the VARIEGATED FLYCATCHER soon perched on a low hanging branch of an ash tree and did a little flycatching. From 4:45 to 6:00 PM, we stood mesmerized by this attractive bird with it's bold facial pattern, crisp white edging on it's wing coverts, streaked breast, rufous tail, and yellow undertail coverts.

The bird seemed to be unconcerned by human visitors, and it would often perch for extended periods on an exposed (often low) branch. During our observation period, I saw it devour a moth and few other insects. At one point, it flew over my head and landed in a Russian Olive some six meters away.

While Scott Downes was gracious enough to show us the field guide differences between Variegated, Piratic, and Sulphur-bellied flycatchers, more and more cameras were clicking away at our esteemed austral visitor.
Some of the folks that were present included the Ron & Carole Louderback, Mike & MerryLynn Denny (now elevated to birder demigod status), Carl from Seattle (didn't catch the last name), Brian Bell (ex WOS pres), Barbara from Tri-cities, Wilson Cady (king of the Gorge), my twitching friend Ted Kenefick, westsider Ryan Merrill, and a few other birders that I didn't manage to ID.

The only other birds that I noted in Windust were RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, WILSON'S WARBLER, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, MOURNING DOVE, and AMERICAN GOLDFINCH. Before sunset, several of us headed over to Lyons Ferry.

As the northeasterly breeze kicked up, it was harder to pick out passerines within the dense foliage of Lyons Ferry. The was a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERs, WARBLING VIREO, HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, HOUSE FINCH, and I just saw Mike's BLACKPOLL WARBLER fly out of a tree while accompanied by a Yellow-rump.

At dusk, we passed under the span of the elevated train trestle that is on the north side of Lyon's Ferry. When I gazed up, I spotted some unlikely birds that were roosting about thirty feet up within the braced framework of the trestle. The birds in question were three WILD TURKEYs that had apparently decided that this high-rise loft was THE choice roosting spot for the evening.

Thanks again to the Denny's for their discovery of this mega-rarity and to Charlie, Dennis, and Steve for helping to quickly sort out the correct ID on this bird.

Gina Sheridan
Spokane, WA

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