Firebird!!
Discovered April 30, 2004 in Tulsa, OK
(first record since December 1965!!)

April 30, 2004:  After work tonight, Phil Floyd and I ran down to the Bixby sod farms for a while.  Lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers---everywhere you look, in fact---and a few Western Kingbirds, and saw one Great Crested Flycatcher.  Also, we found two trees a mile apart where there were singing Baltimore AND Orchard Orioles in the same tree!!

     And then I yelled at Phil, "stop! stop! stop the car!!" and peered through my binocs at a small bird perched flycatcher-like on a dead snag, the lowest branch in a very tall tree in somebody's front yard.  And exclaimed, 'IT'S A
VERMILION FLYCATCHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Hey, what's _HE_ doing in Tulsa??"  I couldn't get over it.... in fact, I still can't!!  Flaming, absolutely _flaming_ red crest, breast and belly, all the way down to under the tail!!  I mean, what else could it be?  Phil confirmed that he saw it, too, and like me, the last time he had seen one was in Texas!!  (For me, it's been since April 2000 when I saw one out on the road between Corpus Christi and Zapata, TX.)

     We watched the bird perched on that branch for several minutes, and then it flew off to some real tall sweet gum trees up the road.  We followed it and I caught the bird in my binocs again before it took off chasing after another bird shaped just like it, only light streaky breast, looked gray and white (possible female?).  We pulled the car over and got out to see if we could get another glimpse of it....

...and then walked south down 129th E. Avenue, between 141st and 151st Streets South.  We first spotted the bird in the trees in front of the only house on the east side of 129th E. Avenue, with the mailbox in front that says "14503."  We went up to the door and asked the homeowner if he'd mind if we walked along the trees beside his driveway because we'd just seen a bird in his yard that shouldn't even be in eastern Oklahoma.  He granted permission, and while Phil stood talking with him, I spotted the FC again, and again with the lighter colored "female," perched on the white metal pole fence that runs along the south side of their driveway to the back of the property.

     We asked the man if it would be okay if other birders came down tomorrow (tomorrow's the annual Tulsa Audubon Society Big Day count) and walked along his drive to search those trees for that bird, and he said that'd be fine as long as you keep it down, since they won't be up at sunrise.

     Good luck!!  (Vermilion Flycatcher in Tulsa!!
who'd've thunk it?)
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May 1, 2004, by John Kennington, TAS President:  Several of us were at the sod farms this morning for the Tulsa Audubon Society Big Day count, and we did relocate a male and female Vermilion Flycatcher.  Thank you, Cyndie, for the heads up!

     As Cyndie said, it pretty much hangs out along the white pole fence along the south side of the driveway.  It ranged from near the road to the back of the property.  It was raining at the time, and we did see the owner and he gave us permission to drive down his driveway.  As long as it's not too far back on the property, you can easily see the bird from the road.  Just position yourself on the side of the road just south of the driveway, which provides a clear view of the entire fence line.  It is a very birdy fence:  a
Blue Grosbeak also spent some time perched on the fence, along with Bluebirds, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Scissortails, a White-crowned Sparrow, Lark Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, Dickcissels, and others.

     Also seen at the sod farms were 3 Semipalmated Plovers, 3
Upland Sandpipers, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 8 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, a dozen or so Killdeer, and a Horned Lark.
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May 1, 2004, by Jo Loyd, TAS Count Compiler:  Thanks for the heads-up notice on the flycatcher.  I believe a number of people got to see it today and probably more on Sunday.  I checked records and Tulsa County has only one other record of this flycatcher---in December, 1965.
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May 2, 2004, by Cyndie Browning:  I dragged my fanny outa bed at 7:30 this morning and drove down to the sod farms to see if I could find the Vermilion Flycatcher again.  I was surprised to find nobody else down there as the sun was well up by now, especially after John Kennington reported yesterday that the bird was refound by Tulsa birders out on the Big Day count.  Oh, well....

     I didn't see it on the fence south of the driveway, even tho' I walked all the way down the driveway and back, but as I returned to the front yard, I saw it perched low on the fence NORTH of the house.  I tell ya, in the bright morning sunlight, that bird looks like it's absolutely
ON FIRE!!!!!!!!!!

     I watched it for about 10 minutes.  From the fence, it dropped down to the grass, caught a bug in flight, then swooped high up into one of the tall trees in front of the house and perched facing the sun, crest raised, again, looking as if it were on fire!  It moved around a lot, from one thin branch to another, until it flew off a-waaayyyy high up into the air and performed its courtship flight for me, which John L. Tveten (
The Birds of Texas (1993)) describes like this:
     "...the male took off and climbed in sweeping circles high into the air, singing a soft tinkling song that some authors described as a repeated 'pit-a-zee, pit-a-zee'.  At the top of his towering rise, he hung on fluttering wings like a giant butterfly, his erect crown feathers glowing in the sun, his tail cocked upward and spread.  Puffing out his vermilion chest, he continued to sing, then suddenly fluttered down to land on a branch beside his chosen mate."

     Actually, I observed that it would almost dive down into the trees again, rather than "fluttering down," but that bird in flight is impressive!  Alas, my only glimpses of the "chosen mate" were the couple of times I watched as he chased her around in the treetops, and that's all I've seen of her either time I've been down there.

     Well, after about 10 minutes, I began wondering why no one else had joined me yet when Terry Mitchell and Bill Carrell drove up.  I pointed excitedly toward the treetop where I'd just seen the bird and they soon found it, too.  We watched together as it made several courtship flights over our heads, then would land in the top of a tree, hopping from one perch to another, calling "zzzzt!" then to another tree, hopping about there a few times, then take off flying again, seemingly proclaiming and patroling its territory.  Wouldn't it be fabulous if they actually nested here??
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Final note:  The bird was seen almost daily until about the 3rd week of May and then vanished, but I'm not surprised what with the wild tornadic weather we had that month.  But what a thrill!!  C.Browning
(c) copyrighted by CBrowning 2005
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Vermilion Flycatcher by Warren Williams