East of Flagstaff
9 Apr 2016, 2:24 PM,
#1
East of Flagstaff
This morning Chuck LaRue and I had an interesting morning exploring some of the washes and canyon out near Winona and Twin Arrows. Birds were not exactly abundant, but we did have good looks at a Red-tailed Hawk on a nest, both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, Juniper Titmouse, and other regulars. We also found three Barn Owls, two alive and one fairly freshly dead. Unfortunately, the live birds didn't pose for pictures, but the dead bird was cooperative.

   

Some interesting rock art and ruins rounded out a good morning!

Jason
Flagstaff, AZ

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19 Apr 2016, 1:01 PM,
#2
RE: East of Flagstaff
I was out of the house early this morning, so I hopped on I-40 east to see if there are any shorebirds at Babbit Tank. This turned out to be a mistake, as the place was completely silent...not a bird was there. I pushed east a bit further to a water-filled borrow pit at Exit 245 that I noticed on Google Maps a while back. While not a destination in its own right, this is a worthwhile stop for anyone passing by on I-40...its just a stone's throw north of the freeway with very easy access.

Here there were two American Avocet on the shoreline, my FOS Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, two Bank Swallows circling the pond, and a mob of 30 or so sparrows in the healthy tamarisk lining the bank. Among the many White-crowned and Brewer's Sparrows was a single Lark Bunting. I also found my first Empid of the year, which is always a good reminder of just how difficult bird identification can be...

   

   

I'm thinking Gray Flycatcher, but I always like to hear other opinions on these tough birds.

Jason
Flagstaff, AZ


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19 Apr 2016, 4:29 PM,
#3
RE: East of Flagstaff
Something very helpful in Gray Flycatcher identification is their habit of tail flicking. They're the only empid that flicks their tail downwards; like a phoebe. As far as Hammond's vs. Dusky goes, I'm a clueless rookie. One trick I've seen used effectively is to play the calls of each and see which call it responds to. Of course that's not very helpful for this instance, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
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19 Apr 2016, 5:34 PM,
#4
RE: East of Flagstaff
For some reason, the tail-dipping behavior of GRFL never works for me in the field...

Jason
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19 Apr 2016, 6:27 PM,
#5
RE: East of Flagstaff
Hmmm - I kind of feel like weighing in on this, with the caveat that I have been defeated by empid pics many times in the past (I love me some behavior, vocalizations, and a chance to look at the bill from a few angles). My gut feeling is gray flycatcher and I'm basing that mostly on the bill since it seems relatively long with the lower mandible tipped with dark. Pretty much all of the plumage characteristics and morphology that could be called out could overlap easily with dusky flycatcher and I keep waffling between the two as I look at the plumage in each picture. I do wish the tip of the lower mandible was a little more distinctly dipped (your pictures seem to show a very limited amount of dark color, which fades rather than transitioning abruptly to pinky-yellow). The bill and tail pumping are the two things that usually confirm a gray flycatcher for me.

Anne
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19 Apr 2016, 7:19 PM,
#6
RE: East of Flagstaff
The long bill, large head and long tail, and especially the pale band extending across the bill ... all say GRFL to me. One in my yard today too.
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19 Apr 2016, 7:22 PM,
#7
RE: East of Flagstaff
that lower pic sure looks good for Gray to me. the first one is a little more confusing, and a number of things make me wonder about Willow, but it doesn't seem right either and if they are the same bird….

what do you mean when you say the tail-dipping never works for you? Is it that they don't flip/dip the tail while you're watching, or something else? for me it is very much a "go-to" (and often observed) mark.
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19 Apr 2016, 8:01 PM,
#8
RE: East of Flagstaff
Empids are the bane of all birders. I actually can never decide if the tail is flicking up or down. But I do think that the largish bill suggests GRFL.
Tom
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19 Apr 2016, 8:12 PM,
#9
RE: East of Flagstaff
Brian, definitely these are the same bird...the perched pic and the one on the groan are seconds apart in time and there was no opportunity for confusion or other birds around. This is a good lesson in what leaf-filtered light can do to a bird's appearance!

As to my difficulties with tail-dipping versus tail-flicking, I'm okay just saying its a personal problem and leaving it at that.

Jason
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23 Apr 2016, 3:02 PM,
#10
RE: East of Flagstaff
Gray Flycatcher...
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