Date: 2/27/17 8:59 am
From: Barry Haas <bhaas...>
Subject: Sandhill Cranes & Fork-tailed Flycatchers

Your post yesterday concerning the highest number of sandhill cranes you've encountered in Arkansas reminded me of an interesting story from many years ago.

In January 1995 the only recorded fork-tailed flycatcher was added to Arkansas records. The day of its original sighting was the day the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas (ASCA) hosted several busloads of central Arkansans to visit Holla Bend NWR to view eagles, hawks, geese, etc., an annual winter event back then. After our day at Holla Bend and rather than following the buses to the interstate for the trip back to Little Rock, one private vehicle headed back east on state highway 154 where the bird was spotted. The fork-tailed flycatcher was originally spotted by Ragan Sutterfield who was in the vehicle with Bill Shepherd and two others. Ragan, who at the time was a very young excellent birder (maybe 14 or 15?), quickly ID'd the bird when he saw it. At least, that's what I recall. Pretty amazing at his age to recognize a species far, far from its home range.

But that's not the whole story I want to share. One or more years later Dora Weir, who had lived in Belize for something like 24 years and was revered there for her conservation work, was now living near Fayetteville at the invitation of Doug James. ASCA invited her to present a program in Little Rock, and I ended up being her chauffeur round trip. I drove from Little Rock to pick her up at her home in northwest Arkansas, and then back to Little Rock the day of her presentation. The next day taking Dora home we decided to take the state highway across Petit Jean to Holla Bend so Dora could see the refuge. When we passed the spot on Highway 154 where the fork-tailed flycatcher had been spotted, I mentioned the noteworthy sighting to her. I distinctly recall she commented it's not always what you see or how many, but where you see it. In Belize she said she had seen as many as ~10,000 fork-tailed flycatchers at one time. But the lone individual spotted here in Arkansas, far from its normal range, was more noteworthy than the thousands she had witnessed in Belize.

In the "Name the Next New Species to be Identified in Arkansas" contest some years later, I seriously doubt fork-tailed flycatcher would have made the Top 100 list had that lone individual already been documented in Arkansas.

From the deep woods just west of Little Rock,
Barry Haas
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