We stand amidst a
tangle of vegetation, red-barked gumbo limbo trees, and oak trees with vines
coiled around moss matted trunks. This jungle-of-sorts is a tropical hardwood
“The bird was perched
there, through that window of branches,” my friend Andy explains.
We hear a sharp and
“Well, there’s the
Great Crested”, Alex, another young birder, comments.
I don’t have a clear
idea what we are looking for, as my field guide sits beneath neatly folded
clothes at the bottom of my travel bag which lies in the car trunk. I only know
that this bird, rare for Florida, is smaller than the more common Great Crested
Flycatcher and carries the traits belonging to the Myiarchus genus: a brown
flycatcher with a faint yellow wash on the belly (for La Sagra’s the wash is
nearly nonexistent, making it one of the dullest Myiarchus flycatchers) and a
touch of rufous in the primaries and tail.
“Parula, did you hear
that?” Andy asks Alex.
“I heard it earlier”,
The two are in continuous
competition to identify birds first. Later in the day they will keep a
competitive tally of Short-tailed Hawks, which we find by sorting through
kettles of vultures.
flycatcher finds his voice and a panicked, squeaky “Whit! Whit! Whit!” reaches
our expectant ears. We race down the path; I try my best not to trip over
slippery roots protruding from the ground. We stop abruptly to scan the canopy
and hear our flycatcher nearing. The flycatcher flits overhead…but only for a
second, a mere flash of secretive Myiarchus.
The La Sagra’s
Flycatchers seen in Florida are most likely island hoppers from the Bahamas.
This particular bird was located at Royal Palm Hammock, a birding hotspot
within Everglades National Park. Like other birds in the genus Myiarchus, La
Sagra’s is easier heard than seen. The three of us left with poor looks, though
I could hear the monotonous “Whit! Whit! Whit!” in my head long after leaving.
Have you been on an exciting chase for a rare bird recently? Write it
up and send in a post for The Eyrie
(include a photo if you can)….