Today during our last birdwalk of the Audubon Spring season.....a young man named Kevin who had 'fine ears'......(not in an aesthetic manner mind you, but in an auditory one), pointed out a few birds that he heard, but "I" being of lesser auditory quality, failed to hear. I think they call that 'hearing loss' to a degree. Although to be fair, I do hear quite well, with the exception of some selective hearing with Deb.
But Kevin picked up the call of Marsh Wrens, House Wrens.... and to get at 'trees'....a Willow Flycatcher. Actually later on in the walk as we just entered Gull Pond Road, we had the pleasure of one posing naturally for us as it flew back and forth over the road. A cute little guy.
Now I have seen both...somewhere or another in the states but here we first picked up the call and labeled the species even before we got into any debate as to what type of flycatcher it was. Either a fee-bee-o OR a fitz-bee. This one was a fitz-bee or a Willow Flycatcher. The fee-bee-o belongs to it's sibling flycatcher; the Alder Flycatcher.
Without hearing them you have no idea who they are. They look the same. So how does a species who looks as if they are identical twins to the other become a separate species? I have no idea but obviously the DNA is separate.
In the old days, these two species were combined into one. It was labeled the Traill's Tyrant Flycatcher and was given that name by none other than John Audubon. John's good friend was a Brit chap named Thomas Stewart Traill, so, there you have it. Here is a British fellow who has not only a bird named after him but also a mountain in Nigeria and an island off the coast of Greenland. Who does that? I know that locally, Dr. Ed Bristol now has a trail named after him here at Forsythe Reserve but this Thomas Traill has a few 'up on him'. A bird, a mountain and an island. Remarkable, eh? The funny thing is that Thomas Traill was not even a birder. He was a friend of John Audubon, who at the time was attempting to publish his book "Birds of America'. Traill helped him find a publisher in Liverpool, England and in thanks, Audubon named this particular flycatcher species after his friend....just to say thanks for helping me 'get this damn book published and now, I can go home'...
But along came a spider and the species was separated and now instead of knowing exactly what type of species it is, we are left in a quandary of attempting to figure it out. If a jet plane is overhead and we see the species, chances are we are not going to hear it. If we are surrounded by 'talkers' or a dog barking or have earphones on or whatever, ....we are not going to be able to ID it. So, if you find yourself in that position, the proper thing to do is to simply label it a Traill's flycatcher. That is official birding etiquette in the Flycatcher world. Remember that. DO NOT jump to conclusions....if you cannot hear it, call it a Traill's.
But let me pre-suppose an idea, so hang in there. Lets just suppose, for a brief moment that we can take the two names and attempt to figure out 'who is who among these 'sibling flycatchers'. Lets see.... an Alder Flycatcher. Hmmm, what comes to mind? An Alder tree perhaps? A Willow flycatcher....hmmmm, a Willow? By god am I on to something. Can it be as simple as that?
Were not the 'makers of names' actually on to something when they figured out that Alder flycatchers prefer Alder Trees and Willow Flycatchers just love Willow Trees? Yes....by gosh, that appears to be correct. So if I see an olive covered flycatcher with a few wingbars, a white eye-ring, a split bill color and even if a jet plane is flying by preventing me from hearing any small chirpy song, but yet I view this bird in an Alder tree, why can't I say it is an Alder Flycatcher. Or if it is in a Willow tree, it is a Willow Flycatcher. By jove...bingo....the cat's meow and all rolled into one. I have figured it out.
Yet I do have my amateur misgivings on my thinking, I must admit. Today for example....there was no Alder Tree or Willow, or perhaps there was and I didn't pick up on that fact until I find myself blogging today. If the case was that the tree was 'anything' but an Alder or Willow and I have no idea of the call due to my 'Rolling Stones/hard rock/Led Zeppelin / excuse for bad hearing, than I today...I today would have seen just a mere Traill's Flycatcher. But thanks to Kevin...the man with remarkable hearing ability, I saw a Willow's Flycatcher in some type of tree, any tree.