The madness, if you will, started late Wednesday morning as I was sifting through insects for my grad research. I got an eBird Rare Bird Alert for Delaware that listed a Clay-colored Sparrow about ten minutes from my house. I sent the guy an email to see if I could come look for the bird. He replied a half our later, and I was on my way to look for my lifer Clay-colored Sparrow. Lifer Clay-colored…embarrassing, right?
Anyway, I was getting close to his house, when Alan Kneidel informed me that there was a possible Gray Kingbird in the same location I found a Loggerhead Shrike a month (or longer) ago. Fortunately, I was heading in the direction of the shrike spot, so I put the pedal to the metal and arrived on site shortly after it was reported to DE-Birds. Dirk Robinson, the original finder, was still watching the bird and I immediately got on it and confirmed the original ID as a Gray Kingbird – a first for Delaware! Great find, Dirk!
I watched the bird from 12:30 PM until it flew north and out-of-sight around 4:20 PM (eBird Checklist). The bird worked a quarter mile stretch of Thirteen Curves Rd. for the entire time I watched it. It was constantly flycatching and never left the immediate roadside, so the bird provided great looks for all observers. You cannot ask for better looks at a first state record. Well, it seems like the Amazon Kingfisher in Texas may be giving better looks! Many birders and top Delaware listers came, saw, twitched, and left. What a great day for Delaware birding! I never made it to see the Clay-colored Sparrow, but I think spending this much time and taking 377 photos of the Gray Kingbird was worth it. What do you think? Here are some of my favorite photos of Delaware’s first Gray Kingbird.
Gray Kingbirds are regular breeders in coastal Florida and throughout the Caribbean. In addition to the individual in Delaware, three other vagrant Gray Kingbirds have been reported throughout the ABA Area this fall – Illinois, New Jersey, and Quebec.
With four vagrant Gray Kingbirds reported this fall, imagine what else is out there? Likely more Gray Kingbirds and plenty of other vagrants waiting to be found. Get. Out. And. Bird.