Dungeness - 0930hrs - cool, sunshine/showers, cloudy, nw 2 - We`d just finished doing breakfast for our guest, and was about to head out over the local patch, when I received an excited phone call from Plodding Birder to the effect that he`d just found an American Flycatcher - at the fishing boats!!!
This prompted a rapid change of plan, and a speedy drive to the point, to join a small group of locals already watching/photographing said bird around the fishing boats and bulldozers. As with most tired, grounded migrants it was not shy, flying around the shingle snapping up insects and settling close by amongst the flotsam and jetsom of the fishing industry. Over the next couple of hours the sun broke through affording good photographic opportunities which should assist in making a specific identification of what is a notoriously tricky group of flycatchers.
Now, I`m no expert on this genus of American flycatchers, having only seen an Alder Flycatcher before, in the spring at Jamaica Bay, USA, but looking at the pics we have to consider Alder/Willow or Yellow-bellied/Acadian Flycatchers. I haven't had a chance to have a good look online, but with reference to the Sibley guide (not always reliable) Alder/Willow both appear greyish on the upperparts and our bird appeared almost bright green at times with a yellowish wash to the underparts, which would suggest Yellow-bellied/Acadian. It also had a bright and complete eye-ring, a stoutish bill and long primary projections, which would lean towards the latter.
At one stage it pooed on a bulldozer, which was promptly collected for later analysis; presumably DNA can be extracted for a positive id.
We called back down the point this afternoon by which time the bird had moved inland to a private garden where an attendant army of twitchers had virtually encircled the place. Despite the drizzle it did show again, sallying forth to snap up insects, but the views were nothing like this morning. After a natter with a few old faces and another chat with the finder, Martin Casemore, (aka Plodding birder) we called it a day and headed for home. A great find Martin, whatever the final outcome on the id, and well deserved.
The phone didn`t stop ringing this evening, what with birders enquiring about the flycatcher, but in conversation with Stuart Winter of the Express newspaper, he was convinced that American birders who`d seen the pictures online confirmed it was a first autumn Acadian Flycatcher.