June 3, 2009
Sometimes you see the most amazing birds when you least expect it. I was driving home from Waynesboro on Thursday evening, just about dusk, when I noticed a strange bird with an extremely long, floppy tail flying over the road right in front of me. It was medium-sized, about as big as a Robin, but the lighting conditions were too poor to make out colors. I quickly pulled into the next driveway, pulled out my compact binoculars, and got a second look at the bird as it flew in back of a tree. It definitely was not carrying straw or other nesting material, those were its own tail feathers! I talked to one of the residents of the house who was curious what the heck I was looking at. I explained what I was looking for, and the guy confirmed that he too had seen the strange bird with the very long tail. For me, that cinched it, and I have no doubt that it was a Scissor-tailed flycatcher, possibly the same one that was seen just north of Port Republic earlier this month.
Scissor-tailed flycatchers breed primarily in the south-central states, and winter throughout Central America, but they are known to wander far from their usual range. I have seen them in Oklahoma (1998) and in Nicaragua (2005). About ten years ago, I recall, a pair of them was spotted somewhere in Central Virginia, possibly Orange County, and they actually raised a brood of "younguns." None were reported in the following years, however. Anyway, whenever a rare bird like this is spotted, the observer is obliged to submit an official report to the Virginia Avian Records Committee, so I'll do that tomorrow.
A friend of Jacqueline told us she found a bird nest in a decorative basket on her porch, so I went to get a picture before the babies had fledged. For most people, it would be hard to tell what species they are, but I have seen Carolina wren babies before, and the very bulky nest in the strange location is the modus operandi for that species.