Empidonax; Sherwin creek

Observers: Donna Willey
Email: basina@verizon.net
Date: 06/03/2008
Time: 12:05 AM -0400

The past month has seen many migrants either flying in for a summer stay or passing through on their way farther north or just elsewhere. One of the many bird species I have seen of late has been the 5.5" empidonax, the Pacific slope flycatcher. At the creek (Sherwin) where I frequently walk and watch the birds there has not been an empidonax there in the spring for several years now. Yes, we have the Western wood peewee, which is a Tyrant flycatcher but not a member of the genus empidonax. When I first began walking along this creek some 7 years ago I used to see this little bird; of course, it might have been a different empid I can't swear to its being a Pacific slope FC. I didn't take such detailed notes back then as I do now. I believe this tiny little empid, with the alluring white eye-ring, the heavy beak with the startling orange mandible and the black maxilla, the black feet and the striking white wing bars is a Pacific slope flycatcher (I could be wrong and it could be the Cordilleran flycatcher which is almost identical to the PSFC). However, my preference is that this little guy is the PSFC. I am not an expert and so I cannot be certain. But one of the things in favor of my choice is this little guy likes to forage and catch insects low to the ground. He swoops down or up from low-hanging alder branches or from bushes growing on a hillside slope above the creek. He likes to flick his tail and sometimes his wings. He is camera shy and didn't want to have his picture taken except one sunny day around noon with insects buzzing around us I sat on the ground and he foraged and swooped from inside an alder bush growing next to the creek. It was just one of those days when he didn't mind if I was nearby. The stretch of creek I walk is several miles and along this bit of Sherwin I have seen maybe 4 or 5 of these little empids. I don't know if they will stay the summer, breed, nest and fledge their young or maybe move on; time will tell. But it sure is nice to have them around again right now.