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My Life’s Birds: #461

January 12, 2011
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June 1, 2008Mason Farm, NC –  Birders often talk about their local patches with a great deal of affection.  They are, after all, the place with which we voluntarily choose to spend most of our time, the place that receives our regular closest inspection, and the place where we go when there’s nowhere else worth birding.  That’s sort of what I was doing at Mason Farm in early June.  Except for a few late, and rare, migrants, there’ not much to pick up for a Big Year as the resident birds have long since been noted and ticked. But even in the midst of a hectic year, it’s no small bit relaxing to do some birding for birding’s sake.  To hit up my local patch, Mason Farm, without much in the way of expectations or difficulties.

At least that’s what I thought, before the bulky flycatcher with the weird lilting voice pulled me out of my comfort zone by a significant margin.  Mason Farm hosts a handful of nesting Acadian Flycatchers every year, but this was no Acadian.  It was larger, grayer, and without the strong eyering.  I’ve also seen Least Flycatchers here too, in migration when they huddle tight in the densest brush, but this hulking beast was no Least, perched high in a Willow grove and giving that bizarre call.  I had my suspicions when I saw it, but being a life bird and a difficult one besides, I wanted to make sure.  When I returned to my car, I played through the CDs of bird songs I always keep in my changer.  My suspicions were confirmed; Willow Flycatcher.  The biggest, bulkiest, and latest of the Empids to pass through this part of North Carolina.  The local patch surprises again!

While I try to get out to Mason Farm several times a month, and I’ve had no shortage of excellent birds there over the years, this is the only lifer I’ve ever picked up there.  It wouldn’t surprise to find another there at some point (Black-billed Cuckoo is most likely), but the only way to find out is to keep going there as often as I can.  Most birders know how little inconvenience that is.  It is my patch after all.

WILFLY by Kelly Colgan Azur via flickr (CC BY-ND-2.0)

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4 Comments
  1. Vaibhav Choudhary permalink
    January 12, 2011 7:06 am

    Lovely one ..

  2. January 12, 2011 9:18 am

    Hmmmm, I don’t know.
    You’re aware that Alders sometimes mimic Willow calls? This is why you should never forget to take you “Empid-InstantDNA” kit out into the field.

  3. January 12, 2011 10:07 pm

    Isn’t finding a life bird on your local patch one of the best feelings in birding? I can think of only two I’ve found in mine (a 10 acre “preserve” in our neighborhood): Lincoln’s Sparrow and, coincidentally, an Alder Flycatcher

  4. Nate permalink*
    January 13, 2011 8:18 am

    @Vaidhav- Thanks!

    @Jochen- Quiet, you!

    @Grant- Too true! To have something so unexpected at place you know so you well is a fantastic thing!

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