Of the 5 look-a-like Empidonax flycatchers, I see Willow the most, or rather I should say I hear it. Well, I do see it but since they all look alike, I depend on their call to identify which one I am looking at. So, I both hear and…oh, never mind, you know what I mean.
On my walk this morning on the Liberty Loop at the Wallkill NWR, I was nosing around not really looking for anything in particular. I was admiring a particularly nice swath of milkweed just coming into flower when I heard the harsh fitz-bew of a willow flycatcher. I looked around for it. But being a small non-descript look-a-like bird, I struggled to find it. Then a small gray-brown bird flew off. Rats, that could have been it.
I wandered around looking at sparrows, orioles, red-winged blackbirds, herons and swallows, all the while hearing the tantalizingly close fitz-bew. Finally it hopped up to sit on the top of a low tree. I waited. La-de-da. Watching. Waiting. La-de-da. Finally it raised it head and let loose with a full-throated 2-syllable burst. Ah, there you are, you little devil. He never sallied forth to catch a fly (which would have been helpful) but sat contentedly looking around.
On the rest of my abbreviated walk (the biting flies were out and the bug spray was in the car, of course.) I saw/heard many of them. Are there more this year? They seem to be everywhere I go lately. Or, maybe I need to broaden my horizon.
Every time I hear its call, I think fitz means son of, so fitz-bew would mean son of Bew. You can see how my mind works. Sad, isn’t it?
Which of the Empidonax do you have by you?