Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tufted Flycatcher: Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

On May 22, Mark Phillips found a Tufted Flycatcher in Upper Ramsey Canyon, Cochise County, Southeast Arizona.  This is the 8th record of this species in the United States. The first record was in Big Bend National Park in November 1991. Since then it has been seen three times in Arizona (Mojave 2005, Cochise 2008, Pinal 2011) and three additional times in Texas (Pecos 1993, Brewster 2010-11, Kleberg 2014).

The typical range of the Tufted Flycatcher is a small strip going from Northcentral Mexico to Bolivia.

A very rare bird like this will generate immediately airline reservations from serious birders all over America. By the very next day, all parking spaces were taken before the Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy opened. Those not fortunate enough to get a parking space were turned away.

I was one that got turned away. When I arrived a docent at the Conservancy came out to greet me, apologize, and request that I come back another day.

You might think that after an hour or two there may be a space that has opened up. You'd think wrong.

Let me explain.

Yesterday, May 29th, Christine and I tried again, arriving at the Preserve about 7:45 am, and were able to secure a parking space.

The location of the Tufted Flycatcher is a little over two miles up the mountain. The elevation gain is over 1000 feet. And, although the hiking guide says "moderately strenuous" that's if you are 30 years old and in great condition -- which means that for the other 99+% of us it is a chore requiring frequent stops to rest.

For us, it was 2 and 1/2 hours from the Visitor's Center to get to the place when the Tufted Flycatcher is. It was 2 hours back (which included a wrong turn that took us up the wrong side of the canyon and added another 1/2 mile to the ordeal --- journey).

In any case, allowing for at least an hour at the site, it's a five to six hour trip. The Nature Conservancy doesn't open until 8:00 am and closes at 5:00. So, while there may be parking places opening up by 1:00 it would be difficult for anyone arriving after 1:00 pm to get to the site and back.

Now a word about finding this little guy.

The problem is not finding the bird. The reason, the Tufted Flycatcher is nesting. So he/she are always near or on the nest. How do you find the nest? You simply asked the people who are already at the site. (The ones younger and in better shape than you are). 

Photographing the bird is a little more challenging. The nest is high up in the tree. The bird itself is the smallest flycatcher in North America. (It is smaller than three of the hummingbird species we have in Southern Arizona -- Magnificent, Blue Throat, and Plain Capped Starthroat). The bird is usually in constant motion, oh, and there are lots of trees, lots of branches, lots of leaves to make focusing difficult.

Nonetheless, I'll show a few photos -- none of which are nearly as good as I had hoped:

Tufted Flycatcher momentarily sitting on a snag.

Tufted Flycatcher in nest eating a ... fly?

A little better focus on the nest.

Out of focus Tufted Flycatcher just arriving at the nest.

No comments:

Post a Comment