Friday, October 09, 2009


Yesterday's post compared flycatchers' vests. Today Murray Head writes:

As birdwear fashion seems to be a trend in your column...I thought you might like to see how neckerchiefs are currently worn at Turtle Pond.

Belted Kingfisher photographed at Turtle Pond on Tuesday, 10/6/09, by Murray Head

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Vested interest

Flycatcher Tutorial
Attention, class! Please study the three photos below, all taken by Central Park photographer David Speiser
[Yes he had an Olive-sided after all!]

Eastern Wood-pewee - 9/16/08

Olive-sided Flycatcher [Maine]

Eastern Phoebe [in Central Park today]

Which one has the darkest breast?

Earlier today I reported that an Olive-sided Flycatcher was seen in the park today and I wrote: It's the only flycatcher that seems to be wearing a dark "vest".

An e-mail from Jack Meyer, one of our park's best birders, arrived a few hours later with the word Correction in the subject line. He wrote:

Marie, The Olive-sided is not the only flycatcher that wears a vest. The Eastern Wood-Pewee also is vested. Jack

I usually defer to Jack Meyer, who is not only a much better birder than I am, but also something of a scholar on the subject. But this time I must rise to my own defense:

Jack! I did modify the word vest with the adjective dark. Though all three of these flycatchers have plumage that resembles a vest,[well, at least two of them have definite vests] most people agree that the Olive-sided's vest is the only one that may be described as dark.

PS Jack also sent the following thoughts about flycatchers
In the words of the inimitable Pete Dunne (Essential Field Guide Companion) "Dingy gray upperparts and extremely blurry streaked sides give the bird an open vested appearance. Pewees button the top button of their vests."

Dunne also describes Olive-sided as "a small town politician in an old dark suit that doesn't fit anymore." [Marie's emphasis]

Both quotes from p 392 of the Essential Field Guide Companion. Incidentally, that's a book every serious birder should own. Much more useful than another pictorial field guide.

PPS from Marie
In his famous field guide, Sibley describes the Olive-sided Flycatcher as having "an obvious dark 'vest'" Meanwhile he describes the pewee's vest as "dusky". So dusk precedes dark, doesn't it? More light at dusk. As for the phoebe, its vest is barely perceptible. Sibley simply says "smudge on sides of breast" Could this be the "pictorial field guide" Jack is referring to above?

What do you think?

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher -- from

Today at 10:19 a.m., regular birder Alice Deutch sent in the first report of an Olive-sided Flycatcher to eBirds via her iPhone. It was perched on a bare tree in the vicinity of "the Riviera." The bird is not hard to identify -- it's the only flycatcher that seems to be wearing a dark "vest".

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a harbinger of the imminent end of fall migration. And, almost always, the bird is seen sitting conspicuously at the top, or on a limb of a tall, bare tree or snag, just as it was when Alice spotted it this morning. This ease of sighting makes me wonder why I couldn't find an image of it on any of the websites of the great Central Park photographers I usually feature on this page. Maybe I missed it. In any event, I found the photo above via Google Images.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"'tis the season for later migrants"

Eastern Phoebe

American Goldfinch

Savannah Sparrow

Three photos [and headline] by David Speiser
taken in the park 10/6/09

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Heron vs Turtles-- a Murray Head photo story

Marie: Thought you might like to see this as as an interesting aspect of Turtle/Heron interaction behavior in a territorial context. Murray
1. Heron sitting minding his own business as turtle approaches for morning sunning on his preferred rock.

2. Turtle is confronted by disapproving heron.

3. Turtle is rolled off rock.

4. Turtle returns with his posse.

5. Heron appears annoyed by turtles trying to intimidate him.

6. Here is the good part... This Great Blue Heron... neck drawn down, tuft activated, actually expresses a look of... of...exasperation!

7. Yes. Look closely... that's it... Exasperation! (Probably the first time ever recorded in a photograph.)

8. He then continues to roll'em off the rock and look for brunch.

This series was taken on Sunday, October 4, at Turtle Pond

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Herons by Head

Great Blue Heron at Turtle Pond

Thursday-- 10/1/09

Sunday - 10/4/09

Three photographs by Murray Head