Sunday 8 October 2017

An October Empidonax at Cape Race, Newfoundland

On 5 October 2017 I turned up an empidonax flycatcher on the Cape Race road. It was in a patch of tuckamore (windy blown stunted trees) between the Cripple Cove turn off and the Radar House. I was lucky to find any bird in the strong SW winds and drizzly foggy conditions. It was feeding on the lee side of the trees next to the road. My initial reaction was Alder Flycatcher because it looked too big and long billed for a Least. I didn't waste any more time looking at it but started taking as many photos as I could during the observation period of less than five minutes, perhaps only 3 minutes.  I stopped looking at the bird when it blew over the top of the sheltered trees and out of sight.  I went on my merry way. When I looked at the pictures on computer that evening. I was baffled at my species conclusion. The primary projection seemed too short for Alder/Willow, the bill looked intermediate in length. There was also the pointed rear to the eye ring which was in my limited knowledge was consistent with the western empidonaxs.  I sent photos a few people who knew empidonaxs far better than I.  I got mixed responses.  Below are photos of the bird.  All are greatly cropped with some light adjusting. I tended to have the bird over exposed against the dark green back drop of balsam fir needles.

THE ANSWER:  It has been pretty well unanimously identified at a Least Flycatcher by the 15 or so people from around North America who viewed these pictures. Still  a rare species with only a handful of autumn records for the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland.