Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unexpected Bird

A couple of weeks ago I was at Pompey's Pillar National National Monument for work. As we left the monument I noticed what appeared to be a Western Kingbird perched on a wire above the entrance.The bird was perched above and just forward of the vehicle so I was looking at the bird straight up it's tail.  I almost just left the ID at that, thinking that it would turn out to be a Western Kingbird anyway. Although it had been quite warm through the fall I knew that most if not all of the kingbirds had already departed for points further south and the possibility of the bird being something else was increased.

The photo above shows what my initial view of the bird looked like although it was even more silhouetted against the light sky.

I decided I just had to check and turned the vehicle around at the approach to the highway and I was immediately glad I made that decision. Even without my binoculars I knew that I was looking at a pretty rare bird for Montana. The profile was distinctive - a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I told my coworkers that this was a pretty rare species for MT and later, after some research, I figured it was probably the 16th observation of this species in MT. However it wasn't the first time I had seen this species in MT - I was 10 years old when my Dad found the first one for MT and it still remember that bird. I have been looking for another in MT ever since, figuring that it would be a bird that I could recognize pretty easily driving down the highway.

I didn't have my camera with me, but one of my coworkers did have her point-and-shoot so she took a couple of photos at my urging.

In the photo above (by Karen Prentice) you can see the flycatcher perched on the wire in the upper left side of the photo.

We returned to Billings and I grabbed my camera and I returned to the monument hoping to find the bird again. I initially could not find it, but just as I was getting ready to head back to town and work I found the bird perched in the shadow of a powerpole across the highway to the south. I was able to get a few photos as the bird as it foraged back and forth from this perch. 

I am still not sure of the age and sex of this bird. My best guess is that it is an immature female based on the length of the tail feathers and the pale base of the bill. Comments regarding this conclusion are welcome.

The bird apparently stuck around for at least a few days and it looks like a number of other birders from around the area were able to relocate it.  The last photos I took were of the bird stretching its wing and tail.

1 comment:

Blazingstar said...

Wow, amazing sighting John! Great photos too, as always.