[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2013] – I have been anxiously monitoring the first “winter” storm to move in down here in Southern California with the hope it might steer some wayward vagrants our way. But after getting to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at dawn this morning for a quick walk around it seemed like the high winds and rain might, literally, put a damper on everything. Add to that the virtual darkness under the thick, damp cloud cover and I was not hopeful!
Then one of those “uh-oh” moments! Here sat a perfect candidate – on the ground at the base of the fence in front of me was a very exhausted looking Myiarchus flycatcher! A bird that is tired looking, semi-moribund, tells me one thing – it probably came a long way! This needed checking out very carefully! I approached a bit closer but the flycatcher came to life and flew off low through the fence. I played cat-and-mouse getting looks at a bright yellow blob moving ahead of me with a shocking dark red-rufous tail. The bill did appear pinkish at the base and bright white markings stood out edging the tertials. Then it just flew out and flopped down on the grass in front of me about twenty yards away! I managed to get a nice series of photographs at this point, phew. I really thought the bird would just continue to hop around on the ground in front of me, but no, it flew up a small height and was whipped away by the strong winds! Aaarghh! I ran over to the pine tree, where it was blown to, but there was no sign of it in the noisy rustling canopy. That was it – the last view I got!
My gut feeling, looking at the bill size and color, yellow underparts up to the lower chest, dark gray throat and face, and dark (olive) brown back and crown, was that this was probably a Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus. On my way home I called Paul Lehman for some advice on the flycatcher. In addition to the olive-brown upperparts, he also reminded me that this species shows off a large crisp white outer edge to the innermost tertial on the wing. At home, scrutinizing the photographs, this bird does indeed show off all the credentials of a Great Crested Flycatcher.
Looking to refind the flycatcher on the east side of the cemetery I then also found a Yellow-green Vireo Vireo flavoviridis actively moving along just behind the fence line in the southeast section. In fact from a distance I saw a yellowish-green bird perched on the fence top and thought it might be a small oriole! But a quick look through binoculars and I was soon running towards the vireo! It was hard to see in the gnarly Myoporum bush tops but I finally managed to obtain some reasonably good photographs of my second Yellow-green Vireo of Fall 2013!