Karl Overman: Birds and More


A “tail” of two cities. The Upper Peninsula bird was found on the shores of Green Bay just north of Menominee by Demetri Lafkas on November 3rd.   Word of this got out promptly and that meant a very long road trip for myself and most other Michigan birders to see it, 8 hours for yours truly.The bird was cooperative, staying four days and counting so that birders from all over the mid-west and beyond could see this South American stray.

On the other hand, the Ontario bird was a one day wonder that was found about a mile north of the park boundary of Point Pelee National Park, hanging out in a ditch in the intensely agricultural area known among birders as the onion fields.  For myself and Robert Epstein, this was an example of the rule, better lucky than good.

Robert and I had birded on October 22, 2008  inside Point Pelee National Park  with meager results and decided it was time to head home.  Birding Pelee  entails more than birding inside the park.  The onion fields on the northern border of the park and Hillman Marsh a few miles further north are normally part of the birding itinerary on a Pelee excursion. There is an east-west road (Concession in Canadian) as soon as you exit the park and that is the road I always take.  However on this day, road construction had the road blocked off.  That inconvenience forced us down the next Concession, Concession D. As I drove down that road, I noticed a suspicious cluster of about five people peering into the ditch.   Suspecting something interesting in the wildlife department, I stopped to see what was going on. The  first two people we came upon were oddly reluctant  to tell us what was going on.  Fortunately I spotted Sarah Rupert whom I have known for many years  so I asked her.  She explained that one of them, Brad Ouellette (sp?), had photographed a Fork-tailed Flycatcher there 45 minutes earlier and then had gone to try to find birders in the park. Unfortunately when he and the reinforcements returned, the bird could not be re-located.  Robert and I decided to look around the block so to speak in this farm country for the missing bird.  While  driving around and fruitlessly searching, we prudently phoned Alan Wormington who lives nearby to alert him to this rarity, a bird he surely needed for his Texas-sized Pelee list.   We continued to drive around without success and then decided to go back to Concession D for a third try.   This time we spotted Wormington slowly  driving, checking the ditch area and farm yards on the opposite side of the road.  All he knew about today's sighting is what we told him over the phone so he did not know exactly where the bird was initially seen.  Robert and I passed him and stopped and walked over to the initial sighting locale  and waited for Alan to pull up.  No one else was around.   I announced to Alan that this was the spot where the Fork-tailed Flycatcher had been initially seen before it disappeared.  Alan’s response was as if we were about to step on a rattlesnake--"Don't move!"  This directive was Immediately followed in a low, deliberate tone of voice--”There it is.”  Keeping with snake metaphors-- well, yes, if it were a snake it would have bitten us--the Fork-tailed Flycatcher was resting on a leafy bough of a small  tree over the water of the ditch below us.  Wow!  We were then on the phone calling various folks to get the word out that the bird had been re-found and after an hour people started arriving to see the bird, including  Steve Pike, Ross and Sandy McIntyre, Sarah Rupert and Brad who had originally found the Fork-tailed Flycatcher.   The bird seldom moved in the hour and a half we observed it.  Perhaps, with temperatures at most 50 degrees, it was conserving energy.  It did make occasional  aerial forays for insects low over the water, including to nab a dragonfly.  For most of the time though it was just  hunkered down in the vegetation and not readily visible. After Robert and I left, we were told the bird flew north and was never seen again.

The critical role Robert and I played was getting on the phone to get the right guy, Wormington, to find the bird.  I think that entitles us to an assist in the land of “Hockey Night in Canada.” 

As for the June, 2018 bird, it was found by Andy Weinrauch on June 3rd in pretty ordinary looking habitat--an abandoned subdivision.  It was still around a week later and counting.


Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana)

Modified June 4, 2018