June 3, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Scissor-tailed flycatcher!

Sometimes you see the most amazing birds when you least expect it. I was driving home from Waynesboro on Thursday evening, just about dusk, when I noticed a strange bird with an extremely long, floppy tail flying over the road right in front of me. It was medium-sized, about as big as a Robin, but the lighting conditions were too poor to make out colors. I quickly pulled into the next driveway, pulled out my compact binoculars, and got a second look at the bird as it flew in back of a tree. It definitely was not carrying straw or other nesting material, those were its own tail feathers! I talked to one of the residents of the house who was curious what the heck I was looking at. I explained what I was looking for, and the guy confirmed that he too had seen the strange bird with the very long tail. For me, that cinched it, and I have no doubt that it was a Scissor-tailed flycatcher, possibly the same one that was seen just north of Port Republic earlier this month.

Scissor-tailed flycatchers breed primarily in the south-central states, and winter throughout Central America, but they are known to wander far from their usual range. I have seen them in Oklahoma (1998) and in Nicaragua (2005). About ten years ago, I recall, a pair of them was spotted somewhere in Central Virginia, possibly Orange County, and they actually raised a brood of "younguns." None were reported in the following years, however. Anyway, whenever a rare bird like this is spotted, the observer is obliged to submit an official report to the Virginia Avian Records Committee, so I'll do that tomorrow.

Carolina wren nest

A friend of Jacqueline told us she found a bird nest in a decorative basket on her porch, so I went to get a picture before the babies had fledged. For most people, it would be hard to tell what species they are, but I have seen Carolina wren babies before, and the very bulky nest in the strange location is the modus operandi for that species.

Carolina Wren nest, babies

Carolina Wren babies, which have since gone on to bigger and better things.