Ahh, fall. At last the weather is wonderful and the migrants are tumbling out. But over the past couple of days I've been both excited and tortured by empidonax identification.
Yesterday (Sept. 22) there were at least six "western" type flycatchers in Lafayette Park, two of which vocalized and were clearly Pac-slope. Plus another empid that was distinctly different, which I'm now convinced was a HAMMOND'S as it showed a long primary projection and a narrow beak and was much grayer than all the westerns. Full description at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39335648 Today (Sept. 23) I didn't realize was a bird blitz - ran into Hugh at the East Wash and continued (separately) to East Fort Miley where we both got sore necks craning at the treetops in the picnic area. Here I also spotted an unusual empid, high up but well seen initially in silhouette (which I was unable to photograph because - of course - I didn't have my camera out). My initial impression was of a small empid, quite compact, with the head a bit too large for the body, and short wings. It flew out but thankfully returned for some rather poor looks and photos. Again showing a compact body shape with rather short but dark wings with bold wing bars, a moderate primary extension (not short as I mistakenly thought at first), with the bill dark on the distal half (unlike the westerns that are usually yellow-orange along the entire lower mandible). I reported it tentatively as "empidonax species", but I'm pretty sure it was a LEAST FLYCATCHER. Full checklist and crummy photos at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39354317 Please let me know what you all think, as clearly I've got a lot to learn about empid ID.
Also, of local interest, had FOS (FOF?) Hermit Thrush yesterday at Lafayette Park and FOS Golden-crowned Sparrows at Ft. Miley West and Say's Phoebe at the east wash today (thanks Hugh!). Plus lots of typical western migrants, with more Black-throated Grays than I've ever seen and Western Tanagers, vireos and other warblers all over. Nice!
Richard BradusSan Francisco