Jeff Feldmann discovers this beautiful rare Fork-tailed Flycatcher in a parking lot near the Hadlyme Ferry in Connecticut. Jeff is an expert kayaker and photographer and often take photographs of birds from his kayak.
In Jeff Feldmann’s own words, here is how the story unfolds.
“First sighting of this bird, happened about noon, on November 30, 2013. I had just returned from kayaking in Whale Bone Creek. I was loading the kayak on the car and spotted a bird, that I first thought was an Eastern Kingbird. I was on the Hadlyme side of the Chester/Hadlyme ferry, in a parking lot, just below Gillette’s Castle. As I got ready to get on the ferry, I noticed two of people looking in the same direction. I stopped to ask about the Kingbird and they thought it could be something different. This time I used my binoculars and saw the long tail. Still not knowing what it was, I decided to photograph it. I only had a 24-70 lens on my camera, so getting a close shot, meant getting close to the bird. So I walked around and over the icy kettle marsh (nearly falling in) and managed to get 4 photos. The time on the photos is: 12:11pm….. It wasn’t until several hours later, that I decided to take the photos from the card, that I discovered that I needed to get in touch with Mona Cavallero ( my “go to” birder /friend from the Hartford Audubon Society club) to see what I had photographed. Mona identified the bird as a Fork Tailed Flycatcher from the photos and informed me ASAP and also confirmed the ID with Paul Desjardins also from the Hartford Audubon. The information about the bird was then immediately posted to CT Birds.”
The Fork-tailed Flycatcher is certainly not an expected bird is Southern New England in the late fall. Normally this bird never enters the United States. However the southern most populations of this South and Central American flycatcher, with 4 subspecies types, are migratory and although highly unusual, most sightings of this bird are in the North East in late fall, around the time one would expect the migratory population to migrate south for the southern summer. It has been postulated that if one could examine the brain of these birds, we might find the internal migratory compass 180 degrees off, so instead of flying 2000 miles south it flew 2000 miles north. It is the same distance, just the wrong direction.
It was interesting to watch the bird. It flew up to Pokeberry and picked off fruits while hovering. At times while roosting, we watched the FTF cough up, one after another; small, hard, round objects that were likely Pokeberry seeds left after the flesh was digested. The sun was not out when we arrived, it spent much time at roost looking about for insects, but it only rarely sallied forth after flying insects. It spent more of this time making trips to the pokeberries than fly catching. At times it would dart some distance away and occasionally it would disappear entirely. Other times it would fly over birders heads and land on a low post 10 feet away. Later in the after noon as it warmed up to almost 40F, it spent more time higher up in the canopy actively fly catching. In the late afternoon as it was sallying in a relatively small area in the high limbs of an oak, where I observed a small swarm of small insects among the high branches, and this clearly seemed to be the prey item for these efforts.
I have no opinion as to which subspecies of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher this is. It seems likely that it could be a migratory population. It’s fly catching skills and fruit eating ability undoubtedly will keep it alive for a while, but it is unlikely that it will remain in the area alive through the winter as it is unlikely there will be any insects or fruit left to forage upon.
Authors Note: A personnal thanks goes to Jeff Feldmann for discovering this beautiful Fork-tailed Flycatcher this year in Connecticut., And to Mona Cavallero for her incredable quick response in verifying the FTFLY. Then getting the Rare Bird Alert out to the entire CT birding community and beyond, through the CT birding list. THANK YOU for sharing this wonderful sighting with us all!
Directions: To the Fork-tail Flycatcher Click on link.
Bird Food For People™ ~ Hadlyme Country Market Click on link.
I appreciate Jeff’s concern and I also hope that our rare avian visitor will find it’s way south soon. Based on this bird’s fly catching and berry eating habits, I feel confident that this particular bird seems like he/she has the “right stuff” to move on when the food supply runs low and the weather gets colder. In the meantime, I am very happy and pleased that so many people have been able to enjoy viewing such a very special and beautiful bird
Mardi, I was down to see the FTF on Monday with my daughter and husband…. And we’d just like to say thanks, how kind it was for you to let us view the bird with your scope mulitple times. I was so excited my daughter got to see it. She’s still quite excited about it (as am I!). Thank you so much again!
It’s been a wonderful ride for the many birders and non birders, who have seen and photographed the Forked-tailed Flycatcher, myself included. I now have concerns that this bird will not find it’s way to a warmer climate and this exciting story will have a sad “tale” (sorry about that). So my suggestion would be for everyone to send a “mind message” to the bird, that our state, will soon be snow covered and frozen and it needs to find another home away from home. Thanks, Jeff Feldmann