[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2013] – I spotted this ghostly looking Gray Flycatcher Empidonax wrightii in the early morning at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego. The flycatcher was working along the chain-link fence on the east side of the cemetery, occasionally flying down to the ground on the lawn to pick up insects. It called just once while I watched it, a quiet, almost muffled “whit” as it startled and flew to a new perch. This individual appears to be an adult with white wing bars on the greater and median coverts. In fact the entire plumage is well faded, hence the ghostly gray look! This is expected in the fall since this species molts on its wintering grounds further south of here in Mexico. When you look closely at the plumage of this bird the worn edges can be seen on many of the feathers. I am also always impressed with the intense orange color of the lower mandible of this species. Hard to see, but it does have a small dark tip to the lower mandible which can just be seen in these photographs.
As seemingly all Gray Flycatchers do, this one showed off that characteristic tail-dipping behavior which can be seen in these last two photographs. The dipping motion is slow, almost pendulum like. The bird makes no other movement except the tail dipping – almost clockwork!
Maybe there is a reason so few small birds are around the cemetery – hawks everywhere! I have seen many migrating Sharp-shinned Hawks lately around the cemetery as well as what seems to me like an increase in Cooper’s Hawks. This juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, perhaps from one of the nesting pairs nearby, watched me approach and acted quite tame!