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Unlikely Duo: Alder Flycatcher and an Upland Sandpiper

Published June 04, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Upland Sandpiper, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, American Kestrel, Savannah Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Great Blue Heron

What does an Alder Flycatcher have in common with an Upland Sandpiper?  Other than they both have feathers and they were both added to my life list today, not much!

I received a call from Sal late afternoon saying he had his eyes on an Alder Flycatcher. I quickly took care of a few things and then raced out to Clarence to join Sal at the Tillman Rd. WMA.  Almost on cue, the flycatcher returned to its spot soon after I arrived. His song was very cool to hear and it was very obviously different than that of a Willow Flycatcher. Other than some measurements that can be taken (crown color with a colorimeter or the wing shape, bill, and tail), the songs of the two flycatchers are pretty much the only way to tell the one species from the other.  If the bird is vocalizing, it's easy!  These birds were once thought to be the same species.

After studying and enjoying the Alder for awhile, Sal casually mentioned he had seen an Upland Sandpiper further into the preserve. He was happy to show me my second lifer of the day! We walked up to "the mounds" and again, the bird we were seeking popped right into view.  This time, the bird perched on one of the gas release pipes. Sal quickly got his scope on it as it was pretty far out in the field - and I was able to take my time and study the sandpiper.  It was an almost "dainty" looking bird with long legs and a long neck.

The sandpiper took off and crossed to the other side of the field where it was joined by a second Upland Sandpiper.  We heard their distinctive wolf-whistles as they flew around before settling, each on another release pipe within eyesight of one another. Very cool!

When I got home, I read up on the Upland Sandpiper and was saddened to learn that its population is decreasing significantly due to habitat loss and hunting. These sandpipers were once very common in the grasslands of the Great Plains.

The fields were busy with Boblinks, Savannah Sparrows, and Meadowlarks. An American Kestrel was eating some prey up on a power line and a little later we saw it kiting in the skies over the fields.  A Great Blue Heron flew over a couple of times with food in its mouth - nestlings somewhere?  And when I left Sal, he was in pursuit of a Grasshopper Sparrow, a life list addition I had gotten at this same place only a couple of weeks ago (Grasshopper Sparrow at Tillman Mounds).  We could hear the sparrows' songs but we never saw one during the time I was there.  I hope he got it!

On my way out, I saw a few Yellow Warblers, heard a Common Yellowthroat, saw 2 Gray Catbirds, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Brown-headed Cowbird, a Mourning Dove, 2 Song Sparrows, 5 American Goldfinches (all males!), and 3 Baltimore Orioles.

What an unexpected surprise to my day; thanks, Sal!
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Alder Flycatcher (a life list addition)
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Alder Flycatcher
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Upland Sandpiper (my second lifer of the day)
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Eastern Meadowlark
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Yellow Warbler
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Baltimore Oriole after a bath in a little puddle
Reply from: Gale VerHague on 6/4/2013 9:44 PM
 Beautiful shots and congrats on two lifers in one day!