Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brave Heart: the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

When I wrote "Happy Mother's Day", I had some idea for an article to post on Father's Day and planned to complete that article in June but I have never got a chance to finish it. To me, writing is an experience sharing and it's personal. It's not so easy for me just to post few pictures or videos. Sometimes, it took me over a year to gather all the information and material to put a post together and still, I am having feelings of aversion that I don't have a proper image to express a message I would like to share with my audience. The moment I photographed this bird, I knew this courageous Scissor-tailed Flycatcher will be the character for my Father's Day post and you will soon find out why ;)

Adult Scissor-tailed Flycatcher with a body length about 14 inches (or 37 cm). 

Few days ago, someone anonymously called in Georgia rare bird alert center and left a message about seeing a rare bird, Scissor Tailed Flycatcher (STFL), at Bartow County.  Many birders hurried there and saw this beautiful flycatcher and some kindly posted the GPS location. Due to my busy work schedule and knowing there is a nest nearby that parent birds will hang around for a while,  I wasn't planning to go out that soon but something happened .....and I found myself at Bartow County, Sunday morning.

Aerial fight between STFLs and a RTH. Click image to enlarge.

It did not take me long to find this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. As I witnessed this gorgeous bird happily flying back and forth between the nesting pine tree and the meadow off Highway 411, capturing grasshoppers (STFL's main diet) on ground and snapping insect in the midair, farm house owner came out with his dog and I gestured him for allowing me to photograph at his property. Suddenly, three Red-tailed Hawks showed up! Immediately not one, but two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers started chasing these unwelcome guests. In less than few minutes, two hawks gave up and flew off, one hawk was still fighting with these two flycatchers. Mother bird felt her beloved mate could take care this fierce hawk, she then flew back to guard her chicks (at least two in the nest). Father bird bravely defended his territory and chased the intruder for the next 10 minutes or so.  Overwhelmed for what I just saw, I could barely move my eye away from my camera viewfinder and thought I might miss something. One time, Father flycatcher literally got on the back of  this Red-tailed Hawk and rode with the hawk (see picture below). They both swooped up and down for round after round and Father bird has no single thought of giving up! I could not tell you what this brave STFL did to this hawk. The only thing I can tell you is this flycatcher held on to the hawk's back and had a hell of roller coaster ride! But I am sure he was risking his own life and telling this hawk " leave my family alone or I will fight you to death!" Wow...what a brave heart and an awesome dad!! After a spectacular aerial battle, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher defeated his enemy and he went on to catch more bugs :)

As I composing this post, I just realized that there is a great reason for me to post this article on this special day, the Fathers' Day. It's very emotional for me to write this post, as my own father has fulfilled his life duty and gone on his next journey. I also remembered my best friend told me the sweetest memories and the happy moments he had with his dad were the days when his dad took him on a bicycle to his piano lessons after schools. This friend of mine was driven to become one of the best pianists I have ever known only because his dad gave him unconditional support and encouragement and the most importantly, dad loved him very much.

Male STFL bravely defends his territory and young ...Click on image to view on black
You can see from this picture he is riding on the back of this Red-tailed hawk

Now you know why this bird is rare to Georgia :)
Image source:
My dad was very close to me and he loved to pamper me and carry me on his back when I lost candy fights to my younger brother. Now he is no longer with me and I miss him dearly. Maybe your dad is close to you, maybe he is a total stranger; maybe your dad lives nearby or he is thousands of miles away, it's never too late to pick up the phone and tell him how much you love him. Finally, I'd like to dedicate this post, "Brave Heart", to my best friend's father, to all the coolest and the greatest dads in the world, and to my own father who pampered me like a princess, who loved me unconditonally and who I respected and loved very much. I can see and feel his spirit surrounded me for as long as I am breathing. Dad loves us and he will always love us no matter how close or how far he is..... Happy Father's Day and Happy Birding! -- Linda

Note: The article can also be seen in June Issue of Bird Watcher News

I would not be able to post these shots and video (coming soon) without many thanks to the enthusiastic birders who spotted and posted the location of this STFL and to my teacher Georgann Schmalz's great instruction for helping me to locate this bird. The direction Georgann gave me, it seemed like, she was right next to me, clear and precious. And, with less than 30 seconds of chat, my eyes spotted this beautiful bird right on the fence pole! Also I'm grateful for the farm owner who granted me a right to view and photograph at his property and all the trouble and fuss birders bought to him :)

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  1. Linda,
    your pic of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher riding the Red-tail is amazing!


  2. Thanks everyone who viewed and commented my work!


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