Western Sandpiper…check, put the number on the board! But could I get lucky with another western migrant this fall season? Well, it turns out I could! While searching at the beach unsuccessfully for what would be a lifer Philadelphia Vireo I glanced at my phone to see if there were any recent bird reports. Turns out there was one, a Western Kingbird was seen at a park not too far away. It’s a park I’ve been to a few times, and a cool place that I really need to get out to more often.
There was a reference photo posted by the birder who saw and photographed this bird. It showed it sitting high up a bare tree that was back- lit. There was as clue of where to look too, near the one structure on the premises. I got to the building to what looked like the spot, found a similar looking bare tree, and figured I was in decent shape if the Kingbird liked the area. After some time it wasn’t looking good. I started expanding my viewing zone, looking everywhere. I met another birder that had ventured deeper into the park, as I was about to. He said there was no sign and he was giving up. We teamed up for a short time putting in the extra effort but alas, no Western Kingbird.
There is a marsh with a boardwalk and I figured I minus well try there. I took a good look but didn’t go to the end as a Mother was spending time with her young son and I didn’t want to ruin their moment. Trekking back to where I started I ran into three very good birders I had met before and it was great to see them! We joined up and headed back down the boardwalk path which by luck was now clear of people. One of the birders pointed out movement in a bare back-lit tree and it turned out to be a Baltimore Oriole. Another of the birders must have seen something else and headed to get to the other side of the light, leaving the boardwalk for the area behind it to check. The third birder pointed out a roosting bird to the right of the Oriole. I got a quick look in my binoculars and then attempted a photo before it could fly away. Reviewing the photo on the back of my camera I exclaimed ” I think that is it!’
The light was a problem so I joined the search to find a better angle with the others. Now getting into tick territory and overgrown vegetation we attempted to re-locate the Kingbird. I volunteered to go back to where it was seen from the boardwalk and call them to help triangulate a location. I hurriedly ran out but noticed two more birders with scopes looking out over the marsh down the boardwalk. I made a break for them to tell them if they were looking for the Western Kingbird that we were on it!! Then I got a call that the bird had come out in few view, in perfect light! Getting back into position now a party of three to join the others we were informed the bird had flew, but it had not gone far. It had flown to a tree just a bit in the distance. Sifting through the tree one birder saw it was even though it was partially obscured by leaves. After a few unsuccessful minutes of looking I did finally figure out its new spot and snapped a photo. The leaves parted with the wind slightly and I got a better photo then I should have. Not a good picture by any stretch, but enough for a I’D! More-so than my back-lit shot.
Suddenly the bird returned to the closest tree and gave a great look!! Awesome!!
However, that look didn’t last as it decided to perch up across the way. Still pretty close! It was great though! Everyone got great looks at the bird as it made it’s rounds!
We were almost in for what would have been very upsetting as an American Kestrel made an attempt on the Kingbird, sending the latter dipping down and out and into cover. Here is a video of that Kestrel perched up and flying away: Click here < kestrel1
This resulted in the bird hiding and not coming back out. Eventually just about everybody left, but wanting to see if it would come back seemed worth waiting around. The closest tree had activity which gave me some hope! It was visited by this Northern Flicker:
And this Baltimore Oriole:
I was giving myself the five minute warning, the sun was setting and I was ready to pack it in for the day. Two of the birders came back over and the second they did in a flew a bird! Guess who it was?? The Western Kingbird! It’s amazing how staying the extra time can really help! Perseverance doesn’t always pay off in bird watching, sometimes the bird has simply moved on and you can look as long as you like but it’s gone! But I personally have had much greater successes from staying out longer and bearing down and trying harder. Many times I’ll tell myself to hang in there a bit longer, or even kinda set a five minute timer in my head that is really extra time. I’m all set to leave, but put some extra time on the clock. Sometimes it works!!!
Click <kingbird > here to see a short video of the Western Kingbird!
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