So I drove around the Sunset Bay portion of White Rock Lake yesterday on my way home. Still miserable from the plague that won’t let go of me, I had no intention of being out and about on foot, but a spin through the park seemed reasonable since I live right there anyway. Besides, it’s a good way to wash the city off before I pull into the garage.
Damp and cloudy and cool pretty much sum up the day. That didn’t stop the wildlife from being out in force, though. I came away from the few-minutes drive with almost four dozen bird species counted along the way. That’s not bad.
Most were the usual suspects, some were migrants passing through, some were migrants arriving to overwinter here, and one happened to be well north of its territory and worthy of a quick stop to take some photos. I only wish I’d felt better so I could have moved in closer, but instead I huddled against the car for a few moments before climbing back inside. But the effort was worth it.
This is a first-year male vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus). This species is subtropical to tropical, living from South Texas along the Mexico border to Southern California, and down through Mexico into Central America with disjunct populations in South America. Finding one in Dallas seems a bit removed from its usual haunts.
The normal winter move for them is south away from the northernmost portions of their breeding range. Since the northernmost portion of their breeding range is well south of Dallas, I thought it quite odd to see one here.
However, interestingly enough Cornell’s Birds of North America Online says this: “Casual in winter north to n. California (Small 1994), sw. Utah (Behle et al. 1985), New Mexico (Hubbard 1978), Texas north of 37°N (Oberholser 1974), ne. Oklahoma (Baumgartner and Baumgartner 1992), and south to s. Guatemala and n. Honduras (Am. Ornithol. Union 1998).” I guess that means it’s not out of the question to think he’ll overwinter here, and it certainly means it’s not unusual for him to be here in the first place given the time of year.
There are several individual records of this species in North Texas. Unusual, yes, but not so much so that it’s worth a news bulletin. Nevertheless, it’s not so normal that it felt mundane, and I know a lot of people who will be lurking about White Rock Lake in the coming days hoping to spot this chap.
I personally hope he sticks around until spring. He’ll molt into full adult plumage by then, and an adult male vermilion flycatcher is a breathtaking sight indeed!