Cut to the chase! How does this specifically describe something to do with birds you may ask? Well, there’s a bird called a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. A real nifty Flycatcher with a super long tail and such a gorgeous combination of white and gray. On its sides it even has shades of pink. It’s a bird I figured I’d probably never get to see. Typically their range is Texas and points just a little north and a little south of there.
It was a hot burning issue for me as one had been spotted quite a distance away north of me, and had stuck around for over a week. Do I chase the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher?? I met another another birder and we spoke about it while on a unsuccessful search for an odd Snowy Egret/ Little Egret. “Too far” he said. Hmm, perhaps. It’s a stellar bird, but when is it just simply too far a trip? A few things got in my way anyway and I didn’t try for it.
As the weekend approached the sightings starting turning to ‘no’ on this particular Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I daydreamed that it could show up in my locale, figuring it would at the least be heading south as the autumn started to actually feel like fall. Upon awakening Saturday I checked the local bird sighting listings as I tend to do, and sure enough a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher had turned up closer to me! Could it be the same bird? A different bird? Would it stay long enough for me to get to see it?
So on the way I went. The feelings you get when you chase a bird for me is a combination of excitement and doubt. A lot of times when something seems too good to be true that’s because it is! How can you expect a bird with wings and freedom to roam anywhere it wishes to stay put? However, sometimes birds do mark out a territory for themselves and hang around around a day or two and sometimes longer. Who could say how long this one had been there, could it be about to move on?
My navigation gave me some problems and when I thought I had arrived I was still about 10 miles away…cool. Using whatever technology I could and intermittently getting no signal on my phone the trip continued. Seeing a parking lot in the general area of the sighting was a good start upon arriving and any confusion I had quickly subsided when I saw a few other birders. Noticing the tri-pods and scopes and making haste to flock up with the others the vibe was “It was just here, but flew out of sight moments ago” but was not considered to be gone…hopefully!
A few other flycatchers showed up in the form of two Eastern Phoebe’s and this gorgeous horse was feeding on the grass! A nice touch to go along with the Wild Turkey walking around in the distance!
We all noticed at once when the majestic Scissor-tailed Flycatcher burst back on to the scene. It flew and landed on a fence post across the way. I zoomed and a snapped a photo and then enjoyed the bird through my binoculars. Everybody looking for the bird was really friendly and nice and it was fun to talk shop with them, and to see the bird and share that moment with them was really cool! I even got to take a long look through some nice scopes with sharp optics! Beautiful!!
Everyone got even more lucky when the bird chose to perch up on the wire fence on the closer side of the field to us! The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher stayed at close range for awhile. It was witnessed in it’s typical feeding style of flying to the ground to snatch up insects.
Having read about them doing sky dances and being quite agile fliers I suppose that is why they need the dramatic long scissor like tail. This one did not have the longest version of the tail. Their tails can get quite formidable! I had asked a birder if anyone else thought this could be the same bird as the one a few hours up north and was told it wasn’t likely. But lately speculation has arose that this actually could be the case. One birder had some pictures to compare and made a good case for it being the same individual. It sure is a beautiful bird and I was totally blown away by it! Here’s a little video
And some photo’s! :
Roughly thirty minutes after I arrived from my long drive to chase this bird it flew back to where I first saw it. It then picked a tree or two for a moment each and then flew, like really flew. We all watched it go. Most of us decided to give chase to the area across the street and we did indeed pick the bird back up momentarily before coming up with nothing but Phoebe’s and Mockingbirds. I asked a very informed birder about good spots for Virginia Rails and he had some great intel for me. There was a freshwater pond just two miles away I could try.
With an hour or so of light left I made it that way, parked, and walked a trail. After getting slightly lost and muddy I took a chance on a mowed trail when I noticed some pond looking vegetation that way. This may be a pond, but at the moment just looked like a dried field of brown vegetation and twiggy bushes. Wouldn’t you know just about five minutes after arriving I had a Virginia Rail grunt loudly very nearby. Then in an unprecedented event a small tiny black rail zipped out and back into the vegetation. What was it? A black Rail? A Yellow Rail youngster, or a really late Virginia Rail chick? I guess I’ll never really know! But it was cool!
I accidentally did flush out a Virginia Rail I had no idea I was walking past and it flew out over the pond and I got to get a nice look at. A two (or possibly three) lifer day! That pond was great and I’m looking forward to going back some day! I’m glad I asked questions and received some advice on where to chase the Virginia Rail. That was really cool and it is nice to have my birding experiences enriched by others. Of course, I always hope to do the same for others in return!
Thank you for reading and coming on this adventure with me! If anyone remembers my pictures of my hopeful Baird’s Sandpiper from two weeks ago, well, it turned out to be a Semi-palmated Sandpiper and my quest for a Baird’s continues! I’m O.K with that, as I mentioned in that blog I had some nagging doubts keeping this bird of my life-list.
It’s a fun challenge to keep learning and trying to get better at identifying birds. Another advantage of the chase of this bird was that when I was there I got to ask some really strong birders their opinions of the I’D and not only find out the correct species, but also learn more in-depth facts and essential details to look for. I’m pretty sure when I finally do see my Baird’s Sandpiper I will know it for sure. Getting it wrong will eventually help me get it right!
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