Great Crested Flycatcher
Carmel River, Monterey County
Sunday, 19 September 1999

After learning that the Great Crested Flycatcher found 16 September was seen again yesterday, I decided to make a trip down to the Carmel River this morning in search of the bird. I was the first birder to arrive at the shopping center parking lot off Highway 1. I arrived at the area marked by an orange "Landscaping Ahead" sign in the middle of the dry river bed about 7:30a.m. By this time Mike Feighner some distance behind me.

I heard some calls from the north side of the river, rising inflected whistles which I though might be the bird, but was unable to locate it. I continued downstream when a large flycatcher flew from upstream, over my head and landed in the top of a tall willow on the north side of the river bed.

With 8x42 B&L Elites, I could see right away that this was the Great Crested Flycatcher. The following description is based on notes immediately after seeing the bird:

An obvious Myiarchus, quite large with a big bushy crest, large bill and long tail. It was facing away from me and against the green leaves of the tree, I could see olive tones to the back which contrasted with the grayish face and darker crest.

Large white wedges showed on the tertials and these marks were very obvious.

The bird conveniently spread its tail and I could see the rusty inner webs extended all the way down to the tip of each tail feather. This appeared to be a real pattern than an artifact of wear as the tips of the tail feathers appeared neat and not abraded.

The bill was quite large and dark, but I was unable to see any pale at the base of the mandible probably because its head was facing away from me most of the time and the few times it turned, its bill was silhouetted against the overcast sky.

I noted some rusty in the wings but was unable to determine exactly where the rust was. The bird called a few times. A rising "Queak" strongly whistled, but not as loud as I expected.

I called to Mike Feighner. Unfortunately the bird flew into the willows on the south side of the river just before Mike arrived and we were unable to locate the bird again. Many other birders began to arrive. I remained in the river bed until about 10 am but as of then, nobody had seen the bird again. A frustrating aspect of this was that I never saw the front of the bird. But the view of the back was pretty good and I was able to check the tail and tertial pattern several times. Total viewing time was about 30 seconds. I have no doubt about the identification but would have liked to have seen the bird better.

According to Steve Rovell the bird was seen again around 3:00 p.m. by two observers near the area where the landowner has cut all the willows along the riverbank upstream of the green pipe.

Joseph Morlan