So, you’re feeling confident in your bird ID? Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs, first-winter Blackpoll/Bay-breasted Warbler, worn-plumage Sparrows no challenge anymore? well, my young Padawan, do I have a bird family for you.
MEET THE EMPIDS!
That’s birder shorthand for the baffling family of Empidonax flycatchers. Around here we have Alder, Willow, Least and Yellow-bellied, and every bloody one of them is “Best identified by call.”
But what do you do when they don’t call?
That’s the puzzle we faced today at Mosher Marsh, a wetland preserve near Amsterdam, NY. This empid flew to the top of a shrub and posed for us.
“Or is my right profile better?”
“How about a rear view? That help?”
(He offered us full-frontal, too, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch a shot.)
And our International Bird of Mystery sat in the middle, saying nothing.
At length we gave up the struggle, entering on our trip list the admission of defeat: Empid Sp? An air of mockery followed us in retreat.