Sunday, May 6, 2012

Vermillion Flycatchers Galore!

One of many Vermillion Flycatchers that appeared in the San Pedro Riparian NCA, AZ; 4/10/2012.
As I was just reaching the San Pedro River in the National Conservation Area of the same name, near Sierra Vista, AZ, a man and his large dog was coming towards me on the trail.
          "Oh, Great!" I thought, "Dogs and birding do not mix." My opinion was that dogs and their rambunctiousness and excitement to be out on the trail tend to scare birds away faster than even humans.  The man said to me,
          "I've been hearing lots of Vermillion Flycatchers singing, but I havn't been able to spot one yet." He was eying my 150-500mm Sigma lens attached to my Canon Rebel T1i dangling from my chest harness, and said, "I hope you find one for a photo. They sure are beautiful." We conversed for a few minutes about birds and the weather. He was bundled up in a winter-type coat with a knit cap and hood pulled over his head, and complained about being cold and hoped that it would warm up soon. I was in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. It was over 60 degrees and the sun was rising over the large Cottonwoods and getting warmer. To me, it was a gorgeous day. Anyway, throughout our entire conversation, his dog sat patiently and quietly next to him - not rambunctious, not scaring any birds. I thought I might have to rethink my dogs vs. birding philosophy. We parted ways, and I followed the trail down the bank and I followed the river. Birds were singing. The sun was shining. I was in a great mood and started my early morning birding trek. The man was right about Vermillion Flycatchers. It sure didn't take me long to spot one. It was across the river, a bright red spot against the gray-green drab cottonwood foliage. I snapped a few pics that I knew wouldn't be any good, since it was at a "not quite good enough for pic" distance. Soon I saw another one at closer range - a few more pics. Then another one, and another one. Each one in a better position for a decent photo than the last. Throughout my 3-hour hike, I would guess I observed at least a dozen male Vermillions (Above), and probably another dozen females (Below).
A female Vermillion Flycatcher, San Pedro Riparian NCA, AZ; 4/10/2012.
Vermillion Flycatchers are not usually a common sight, but are found around desert habitat with water and trees available. The San Pedro River serves this purpose and is a likely habitat to find these beautiful red and black flycatchers. Arizona, Southern New Mexico, and the southwestern edge of Texas are the most probable locations to find them in the U.S., but would be much more common in Mexico. In the summers they might travel as far north as Southern Utah. In the winter months they will travel as far east as the Gulf Coast of  Eastern Texas.

Another male Vermillion Flycatcher, San Pedro Riparian NCA, AZ; 4/10/2012.
As you can see (Above) the males of this species have a bright red head, breast, belly and undersides. They are contrasted nicely with black wings, back, tail and mask and bill. On the black wings they have two very pale wing bars.  Females lack the bright red, and are lighter on the back and wings. Their breast will have some feint streaks, and further below pinkish or yellowish under the tail. The photo (two Above) shows a female with pink under the tail, while the photo (Below) shows a female with more whiite and some pale yellowish colorings under the tail.
Another female Vermillion Flycatcher, San Pedro Riparian NCA, AZ; 4/10/2012.
At first, I thought the female (Above) was another type of flycatcher or phoebe, but the white face, dark eyeline, the streaked breast, and the wing bars that are somewhat broken (not as solid as most flycatchers) gave it away as a Vermillion. A couple of more photos (Below) because I was drawn to them and it was hard to resist taking their pictures.

Yet another Vermillion Flycatcher, San Pedro Riparian NCA, AZ; 4/10/2012.
... and another ... same place.
Don't you just love these guys? To quote the man with the big dog, "They sure are beautiful."

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