From early January until around March 8th, 2013 a La Sagra’s Flycatcher was hanging out around the parking lot and boardwalk to the Green Cay Nature Center in Palm Beach County, Florida. The La Sagra’s Flycatcher is a comparatively small member of the Myiarchus genus of tyrant flycatchers, and is native to the West Indies. Almost annually, one will show up in southeastern Florida. My friends and I were fortunate to be able to search for the Green Cay bird during the afternoon of March 2nd. We arrived at the nature center a little after 3:30pm (eBird list), and began looking and listening for the flycatcher. A few birders that we met told us they hadn’t seen the flycatcher but that they were told it had been seen earlier in the day. It was windy and there were tourists all over, so we were a little worried about finding the bird but continued to search our hardest.
I wandered over towards the nature center, while Mark and Josh surveyed the trees around the edge of the parking lot. An adult male and two female Painted Buntings were at the bird feeders, a White-eyed Vireo, a Common Yellowthroat, both subspecies of Palm Warbler, and Yellow-rumps were foraging around through the trees and brush, but we couldn’t find any flycatchers. Josh and Mark walked over to where I was standing and we heard a few calls from back in the trees that we though might be the La Sagra’s….none of the three of us had ever seen (or heard) one before, so we weren’t totally convinced. Frustrated and a little confused with what the sound was, it was 4:00pm and we knew we should run over to Wakodahatchee Wetlands (which is just a few blocks away) and try for the Neotropic Cormorant. We hoped the cormorant would be easy to find and then we could come back over to Green Cay and spend the rest of the remaining daylight searching for the La Sagra’s. Although it would mess with our plans for the next day, we were prepared to stay in the area and search for the flycatcher on the morning of the 3rd if we had to.
We ended up finding the cormorant fairly easily, and made it back over to Green Cay by 5:15pm (eBird list). During the drive over to Wakodahatchee and back, we had reviewed La Sagra’s calls that I could find through my iPhone on Xeno-Canto, and we were 95% certain that the calls we heard had to be the flycatcher. With a renewed sense of hope, we started searching again. This time, within minutes of arriving, the flycatcher called louder and closer – doing a very clear ‘wheet’ call! After a minute or two of frantically scanning all over, Josh was the first to spot the bird – it flew in and perched almost directly above the boardwalk, but was mostly obscured by branches. I struggled to get a clear shot with my camera, while Mark and Josh admired the bird through binos.
Luckily over the next few minutes, the La Sagra’s flew down and began foraging for insects around a bush that we could see well from the boardwalk. The bird wasn’t too close, but the lighting was decent enough to get some nice photos. After dipping on a La Sagra’s Flycatcher at Bill Baggs in March, 2012 it was really great to get such prolonged looks at this bird! This was also the first of a series of rarities from the West Indies that we were able to see during our 10 day birding trip through Florida.