Sunday, November 13, 2011 was a beautiful day to be out for a local birding adventure. Thanks to Nick Bonomo for noticing that a Western Kingbird had been reported in Westport on eBird and sending an alert to the CT Bird List. We were planning to visit the H. Smith-Richardson CAS Sanctuary anyway for a chance at the recently seen Chat.
I would strongly suggest becoming a subscriber to CT Birds http://lists.ctbirding.org/mailman/listinfo/ctbirds_lists.ctbirding.org The many contributors to the CT Bird list, and other lists, are extremely helpful in getting the word out on interesting birds almost as soon as they are seen.
A conspicuous and aggressive bird of open country, the Western Kingbird is common throughout the western United States and Southern Canada. It is often found in open fields and around human habitation, and frequently uses telephone poles, fence posts, and other man-made structures for nesting. It is an uncommon but regular fall visitor in the east.
An Adult is a Medium-sized songbird with head and chest gray with a yellow belly, the tail is a black, and square-tipped, with white outer feathers. The Immature or Juvenile is similar to adult, but paler, wings edged with buff, crown without orange feathers. When sighting a Western Flycatcher, one should also consider similar species that are the Cassin’s, Tropical and Couch’s kingbird
We spent over half a day observing and photographing this entertaining vagrant. Flocks of Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins and Cedar Waxwings kept it company. The Bluebirds were observed early in the day by Vanessa, interacting with the Western Kingbird as it approached the Bluebirds favorite foraging areas. Both species were actively flycatching, although the Bluebirds unceremonious plop to the ground in no way rivaled the spectacular foraging flights of the WK. When the WK visited fruit ladened trees, to grab some fruit or a bug, it was sometimes joined by American Robins, Eastern Blue Birds and Cedar Waxwings doing the same thing.
I found Richard Crossley’s description of the foraging Western Kingbird, in The Crossley ID Guide, to be accurate. It frequently flew a considerable distance for no apparent reason; rather enjoying it’s self, after taking one or two successful forays in one location, seemingly just because it could.
So five hours given to a bird is not a waste in my book. Of course we could have ticked it off in five minutes and been off the next one, but the bird had lessons to teach us about itself that required hours to learn, not minutes. Besides the other visiting humans, the birders and photographers, provided pleasant conversations and helped the time fly by. It was good to see some folks again and it was a chance for all to catch up. For some of us the next encounter will be for certain, at the next good bird, location and date to be determined.