On Monday, May 12, an email went out to the Illinois birding community that the Bowman brothers (Chris and Mark) had found a Fork-tailed Flycatcher at Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve in Geneva, Illinois (Kane County). The last Fork-tailed Flycatcher seen in Illinois that many people saw was a one day wonder found by Josh Engel at Paul Douglas Forest Preserve (Cook County) on May 16th, 2005. Some birders missed that bird, and it was very refreshing to read that another had been found close enough that I could chase it in the same day.
I began making phone calls, and realized that all the birders I knew were either not going for the bird, or were on their way. I needed to find a way out there after school (which ended at 3:30), and I caught a break when I talked to Larry Krutulis and learned our friend Jeff would lend him his car after getting back from the flycatcher. All seemed good until Larry forgot his wallet at work. Plan B! My mom agreed to take us out there, as long as I drove to get practice. By 4:30 we were all on the road, on our way!
Arriving at around 5:20, we could see people were looking at something through the trees, so we hurried over. Turned out we had missed it by only about a minute, but the bird was in the area! I also heard muttering from my friend Aaron Gyllenhaal (one of the finders of the Elaenia in Chicago back in 2012) that a Connecticut Warbler had also been heard singing. I wandered to look for the Connecticut while everyone looked for the flycatcher, but soon heard shouting that the flycatcher was flying down the river! I immediately ran to the shore, and sure enough could see a bird similar to an Eastern Kingbird (which there were many), except it lacked a white tail band, and instead had a split tail! Fork-tailed Flycatcher! It was clear through binoculars that this birds tail was clearly not rounded but forked, that it had white shafts on the outer feathers, very brown wings, and a black cap. ABA bird 528, and Illinois bird 327. Below are two crummy photos I took, and a better photo by Mark Bowman (a finder of the bird).
There were lots of other migrants around, and I was able to find my first of year Blackpoll Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and a decent bird for the area, a Philadelphia Vireo! This was a county bird for many present, and a nice consolidation since I couldn’t find the Connecticut.
Thanks again to Mark and Chris Bowman for getting the information out quickly so that many Illinois birders could all see this great bird. Unfortunately, it was not relocated at all the next day (May 13th), despite many looking.