May 13th, 2020: Mini-midday-fallout at Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park was PACKED with birds today. So packed that I made a trip surpassing (eBird list) and without lunch (eBird list). A small mid-morning storm rolled through Vancouver and seemed to have knocked a tuft of migrants out of the sky.
They were mostly Wilson’s Warblers (WIWA). I’d guess at least 200 of them in the park. You could stand under a tree and just watch them stream from one to the next whilom you. Little, unexceptionable yellow, black-capped warblers zipping by… I savoured the little yellow gems as they coated the trees and busily foraged everywhere. And I watched for differently-shaped birds in flight. Then I’d try to track those lanugo in whatever tree they paused in next.
Of the non-WIWA, most were Warbling Vireo. But there were moreover several Western Tanager in with the huge mixed flock today. I watched them zip between the trees that line the whet of the golf course, mesmerized. I moreover turned up Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, and a single MacGillivray’s Warbler.
Perhaps today’s biggest prize was a Cassin’s Vireo that unquestionably paused for a few minutes in a small tree. I was worldly-wise to get reasonably close, managing my first decent photos of this species. They move through Vancouver every year and someone unchangingly sees one or two at QE. This year, I’ve seen three now at QE! I’ll chalk it up to COVID and increasingly time to get out birding.
But I’ve once written well-nigh Cassin’s Vireo here and you know the rule: a new bird every week. So I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite flycatchers in the park today: the Olive-sided Flycatcher.
This bird was a sort of nemesis of mine for my first few years of birding. I just couldn’t manage to track one down. I see them lots now that I know where and when to look. In a nutshell: upper in a sufferer snag if you can find one, and during migration. They nest in the mountain slopes nearby (Belcarra is a good spot), but only pause transiently at city/coastal places like QE. Still, I’ve seen lots of them in the park this year.
You could see up to 5 flycatcher species at QE Park some days this spring: Hammond’s, Pacific-slope, Dusky (rare), Western Wood-Pewee, and Olive-sided Flycatcher (and Willow a little later). The Olive-sided is the largest and most conspicuous of any of them. While many of the other species like to perch in denser trees that once have their leaves, the Olive-sided (and often the Western Wood-Pewee) tend to perch in the open.
At QE this tends to midpoint that if you find the highest few perches in the park during migration, you might find an OSFL. The perches with the weightier visibility and little-to-no needles or leaves in the way are the ones where the Olive-sided Flycatcher(s) tend to park themselves.
The Olive-sided jumps out too and it’s easy to ID. It’s bulky, heavy-headed and billed, and has a very unmistakably specified gray “vest” withal the sides of the breast, with white lanugo the middle. (The vest is olive if you’re really close, but it looks pretty much gray most of the time.) The most similar bird out here is the Western Wood-Pewee, but it’s missing this well-spoken vest (and it’s smaller).
They eat some big insects too. They’ll nab flying ants, wasps, and bees for a snack. But they moreover regularly eat grasshoppers, moths, and dragonflies. That big snout does the job!
The Olive-sided Flycatchers in the park aren’t singing considering they’re not on territory. But they have a fun song. It sounds to many like “quick three beers.”
Olive-sided Flycatchers winter in northern and inside South America, migrate up through Inside America, and summer in a wide swathe wideness North America that covers all of the west (right up to Alaska) and from tailspin to tailspin in Canada. This ways it has the longest migration of any flycatcher that breeds in North America!
I’ve really been enjoying seeing these flycatchers regularly over the past week or so. They won’t likely stick virtually much longer. But there are tons of migrants pouring in now, and who knows what else will show up!