|Western flycatcher. ©Bill Thompson III|
It had a rounded crest at the back of the head. It had an oblong-shaped, bright white eyering. It had buffy wingbars. It's breast and belly were a yellowish-green. It was flicking its wings and jetting its tail. Its large-looking bill had a pale lower mandible. And it was in southeastern Ohio in mid-December, when most North American flycatchers should be somewhere in the tropics.
The bird moved and I bolted inside for binocs, a camera, and Julie. We raced back out and, after a few panicked moments, re-found the bird. After some wild conjectures, we finally came to the conclusion that this was an Empidonax flycatcher. After we eliminated all the eastern Empids, we moved on to the western ones and BAM! Arrived at the western flycatcher complex, a single species that was split in 1989 into two distinct species: Pacific-slope flycatcher and cordilleran flycatcher.
And that's when the fun really began. The latest episode of my This Birding Life podcast, "Backyard Rarity, Part One," covers the experience of finding, identifying, and sharing of this rare bird. Give it a listen for free at Podcast Central, or on the iTunes podcast channel.
This Birding Life is hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest and sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics and Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures.