Lifer Drought Ends: Least FC

My world life list has been hovering around 1,647 species for a long time now. I was hoping to break 2,000 with a planned trip to Peru but of course it was canceled due to the global pandemic.

The pandemic also meant that I have not gotten out to bird across the country or the state as much as I would like. It is great to get out and be amongst nature looking at birds but sometimes when it is a rare species that has been reported, social distancing becomes a real issue as more and more birders show up to a certain site looking into the nearby bushes.

When I found out there was a least flycatcher being seen in the Presidio I rushed over hoping to get a glimpse of it before sunset. I whiffed on the flycatcher, missing it by about an hour. But I was determined to try again the following morning.

I was in place by quarter to nine the following day. I was soon joined by two other birders. A least flycatcher in California is a rare bird! This is a flycatcher that is normally found on the east coast and it is an Empid, a genus of small flycatcher that can be notoriously hard to distinguish from one another. Some call only be told apart by song.

Within the next hour birders reached critical mass at eight.

To pass the time there was plenty of passerine action and a few raptors too. A white-throated sparrow was foraging with golden and white-crowned sparrows. Another birder called attention to the continuing yellow-bellied sapsucker high in the eucalyptus trees. This woodpecker is considered rare in California. A stunning adult red-shouldered hawk was perched above, warming itself and preening in the morning light.

An Adult RSHA, squinting into the morning sun.

After an hour’s wait, by about 10 AM, a birder informed me that they had the flycatcher further down W. Pacific Ave. So I headed down and seven birders where looking into the forest edge. I followed their gaze and got on the least flycatcher!

This was a very active bird, hawking insects on the wings and occasionally landing on the ground to capture prey. The least flycatcher forages low to the ground, which can help with identification.

The diminutive least flycatcher, looking down for insects to catch.

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