Saturday, November 9, 2019

Two rare (for Ohio) birds

As always, click the photos to enlarge

A gorgeous first-year (I believe) female vermilion flycatcher hawks insects from a branch low over a marsh. While common nesters in parts of the southwest U.S. - with most birds wintering south of the border - the vermilion flycatcher is a major rarity in Ohio. The bird shown in this photo is about the 7th state record, I believe.

I finally had time to go look for it on November 3rd, but Levi Schlabach and Elias Raber first found the bird on October 25. A great find by the two gentlemen and one that may have had them temporarily scratching their heads. Female vermilion flycatchers are not nearly as distinctive as the brightly marked males, and when birding the Wooster, Ohio region in late October, this flycatcher would not be high on your list of expected species. Insofar as I know, it's still there as of this writing.

This bird frequents a small portion of a large marsh in Wayne County, which is northeastern Ohio. I spent over an hour observing her, and she seemed to be catching many a bug, in spite of cool temperatures. Most of our records come from late fall and early winter, with at least one or two lingering into December, so this species can endure frosty weather.

Fortuitously, this little animal was only twenty-five minutes from the aforementioned vermilion flycatcher, in nearby Holmes County. A stunning adult male rufous hummingbird and another western species, it turned up at the feeders of Martha Gingrich Weaver and family. I made this image as the bird perched atop prominent branch tips of an ornamental crabapple, from which it sallied after small flying insects. The bird also made regular trips to nearby hummingbird feeders for sugar-water fixes.

The first Ohio record of rufous hummingbird dates to 1985, and we've had dozens of records since. It's still quite the rarity, with only a few birds seen in any given year, and very few of those have been showy males as is this bird. Like the flycatcher, it's a westerner and the hardiest of the U.S.-breeding hummingbirds, nesting all the way into Alaska and at high elevations in the Rockies. Martha first saw it on October 23, and it's still there as of today. The Weavers have been extraordinarily gracious in allowing visitors and at the time of my visit, well over 100 people had been there to admire the spunky rufous hummingbird.

This November 3 rare bird safari offered the possibility of a trifecta, but alas, it was not to be. Right on my driving route from Columbus, and only 30 minutes or so from the vermilion flycatcher was a cooperative pomarine jaeger. The gull-like kleptoparasite was frequenting a large reservoir and was found by Sue Evanoff and Sue Snyder on October 29. The vast majority of jaegers that appear in Ohio occur on Lake Erie, and one on an inland reservoir is always extraordinary. Reservoir jaegers nearly never linger for any length of time, let alone five days as this one did. Alas, its final day was the day before I was there. It was seen late in the day on November 2, and I was there near daybreak on the next day. Somewhere in between it flew the coop.

Two out of three ain't bad, though.

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