Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Northern Wellington County Bird Sightings

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby mustap on Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:46 pm

Along the northern border of luther marsh, the area known as Monticello Wetlands, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher reported on Ontbirds perhaps a week ago continues to be seen today. After testing the patience of many birders today, it finally showed itself at approximately 12:15pm. First seen in the central marsh area, after a couple of stops it moved out to the power lines on the street. I believe all onlookers were treated to clear if distant views of this bird. Other birds in the area included: Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, American Crow, Osprey, Merlin, Northern Harrier, Hummingbird sp, Black Tern (2), Eastern Kingbirds, Savannah Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egrets, Yellowlegs sp (flyover), and some unidentified ducks. Non-avian sightings included a number of butterflies, dragonflies, and 1 snake.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher:
Image

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flight:
Image

Black Tern:
Image

Unidentified Snake:
Image

Unidentified Dragonfly:
Image

Unidentified Insect:
Image

Viceroy? Butterfly:
Image
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Frank.P on Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:25 am

Nicely captured Peeter, great variety of species. Just to the west of the Monticello sign along the tree/brush line is where Lori and I encountered the Lincoln's Sparrow.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Bob Goertz on Sun Aug 08, 2010 10:05 am

Nice variety Peeter. I have not been to Luther marsh in quite some time. I think I'll have to head up there. What a gem of a place. The butterfly is a Viceroy. You can tell by the black line across the second wing.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby josh on Sun Aug 08, 2010 3:55 pm

Glad you got to see the bird too, Peeter! Your snake is a Northern Red-bellied Snake, the smallest species in Ontario. That one looks like a female which has had her young.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Zethar on Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:19 pm

Well done Peeter. I would love to have a go at that scissor tail.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby jstlouis on Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:03 pm

Really nice collection. The scissor-tail is beautiful.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby HighDHo on Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:17 am

This is the place to be!!! It is quickly becoming my personal favourite for birding and photography!! Hope you don't mind Peeter, but I also have a shot of the Flycatcher. Although it is not a great shot, it shows some more detail. I am assuming based on the short "primaries" (?) that this is a young bird? Any guesses as to how this wondeful bird found it's way here? Was it born this year then?

Image

Sorry about the wire. :oops:

Also saw quite a few Great Egrets in the distance, as well as many unidentified raptors. This Egret flew right at us as we were leaving the Marsh area.

Image

Is there anything Luther Marsh doesn't have?!?!?

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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Peter C. on Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:45 pm

HighDHo wrote:This is the place to be!!! It is quickly becoming my personal favourite for birding and photography!! Hope you don't mind Peeter, but I also have a shot of the Flycatcher. Although it is not a great shot, it shows some more detail. I am assuming based on the short "primaries" (?) that this is a young bird? Any guesses as to how this wondeful bird found it's way here? Was it born this year then?

It's not the moulting primaries, per se, that give it away - a full adult, at some point in his or her life, will also have to drop them, and so will also have wings that look like this. Rather, it's the tail length, which is shorter in hatch-year than after-hatch-year birds. The so-called "adults" have much longer tails than this - ridiculously long! I've seen them perched on wires in Costa Rica, they look like a tail with a bit of bird attached at the front end...

(Having said that, I suppose it's possible that adults moult at a different time of the year, and therefore the fact that the bird is moulting in August might be an indication of age - I don't know the timing of the moult in this bird.)

I think the reason that we get these here is that, in this species, there's a phenomenon called "post-breeding" dispersal; young birds, hatched down in Texas or thereabouts, depart their parents' territories, and just fly off in all directions, looking for an unoccupied territory. Most probably stay relatively close to home, but just by the random chance, a few end up in Ontario. The vicinity of the Great Lakes seems a particularly popular destination (I know of at least one record for the Thunder Bay area!) although that could be simply "observer effect".

This also accounts for certain other southern birds we get - like Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons - when we see them in the fall, they are almost inevitably young birds.

[None of the above applies to spring records for Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (which there are, but much fewer). Those would have to be for some other reason.]

Also saw quite a few Great Egrets in the distance, as well as many unidentified raptors. This Egret flew right at us as we were leaving the Marsh area.

Is there anything Luther Marsh doesn't have?!?!?

Heidi

Well, a Fork-tailed would've been nice :P

- in compensation for the Scissor-tailed, which Luther Marsh apparently does not have (as of Sunday, at least). :(
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby mustap on Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:53 pm

Thank you Bob for the Butterfly ID, and Josh for the snake ID. Any of the insect experts want to give a try on that green one? Never seen anything like that one before, of course it is pretty easy to miss in the long green grass.

Is there anything Luther Marsh doesn't have?!?!?


I can think of a few hundred species i would love to see there! :shock: But it is certainly a large area, so who knows what else it could be hiding. Several birders remarked at the odds of seeing the scissor-tailed there, given that many spent from sunrise through 12pm looking for the bird. Lacking the faith that the bird had been reliably seen there, I think it unlikely we would have persisted as long as we did. Browsing around various birding lists for shorebird sightings, many are often reported for but a few hours before moving on....making one wonder how many birds we might miss entirely. Certainly the "observer effect" Peter mentions so often is worth consideration. How many of the hotspots are such simply because that is where people are spending the bulk of their time rather than exploring new areas? It is certainly clear that times change, and so does habitat.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Peter C. on Tue Aug 10, 2010 7:51 am

Peeter:
The green insect is a katydid, but that's as far as I'll go (Order Orthoptera, same group as grasshoppers, crickets and stick insects). Note triangular back pattern, long (but thin) hind legs.

Josh:
I agree Red-bellied snake (by back pattern and range) for sure, but how do you get to "female which has had her young"??!
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby josh on Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:31 pm

Hey Peter,

Glad you asked! I guess it is the sort of thing that you only really notice after seeing dozens or hundreds of these snakes. I can tell it is "probably" a female due to the relative length of the tail (the tail starts right where the vent or cloacal opening is). Pretty hard to tell from the picture and I would need to have this individual in hand to verify that. From where it appears to be, the tail length is within the range of a female. Secondly, the snake appears relatively thin, especially towards its back end. Female Redbellied Snakes drop their young in late July, so one that you see this time of year is most likely recently "deflated". This one definitely looks so, as an unmated snake would appear much thicker towards the back end. Pregnant snakes generally stop eating a few weeks before birth and all their body fat stores go to producing large healthy young. Once they have their babies they appear very thin. Unmated snakes don't have this strain on their body obviously so they have an easier time maintaining a consistent healthy body weight throughout the summer.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Mike O on Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:57 pm

Awesome spotting Peeter and Hiedi. The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher seems like a once in a lifetime find for around here. Great collection as well Peeter.
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Re: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh

Postby Peter C. on Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:38 am

Thanks Josh,

That's all useful information, good to know. And now that you mention it (and, as I look back at the image) it really does appear "deflated" (as silly as that seems at first) at the posterior end of the "trunk", or whatever this is called in a reptile. I'm guessing that the tail, here, begins at just at the right end of the last "loop" in the body - there seems to be a bit of a sudden change in the reptile's shape at that point.

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