Mr. And Ms. Vermilion Flycatcher
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Spring is the season of romance and most of our local species are pairing up. A couple of weeks ago I visited Ft. Lowell Park, the public park closest to our home, partially in order to observe “my” Vermilion Flycatcher. I’ve photographed this bird on several occasions and posted his image more than once. As I’ve explained, he’s usually easy to find because he’s highly territorial. He has his favorite trees. Sure enough, he was right where I thought he’d be and he posed amiably for me.
Female Vermilions behave differently than do the males. They appear not to establish the sharply defined territories that the males establish and they are much, much shyer than are the males. For weeks I was unable to photograph a female Vermilion Flycatcher successfully. If I saw one she’d flee long before I could set up to photograph her. My difficulties were compounded by the fact that the male would drive off any other flycatchers, including females, who encroached on his territory.
But, on this day, something was different. As I photographed the male I noticed a small bird sitting on the next tree. I looked at it and realized immediately that it was a female Vermilion Flycatcher. Her timidity was gone. She was sitting quietly on an exposed branch, not at all anxious to fly. The male, just a few yards away, tolerated her presence. The female, in turn, tolerated me, far more so than in the past. It quickly became apparent that she wasn’t going anywhere so long as the male was nearby.
Female Vermilions lack the males’ gaudy colors but they are beautiful in their own right. Their soft brown and tan plumage, which turns to orange on their abdomens, is charming. This little female is a real stunner.
As I watched, the two birds took flight. But instead of flying away, they flew vertically, rising to a height of about 25 feet above their original perches. As they flew, they spiraled around each other, only a foot or so apart, and then, returned to their perches. Clearly, I was watching a courtship flight.
I wish this couple happiness. Hopefully, there will be fledglings in a few weeks.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting. The first image shot at ISO 320, f8 @ 1/1250. The second and third images shot at ISO 500, f8 @ 1/800.