Rich olive-green above, with a complete bold eye-ring, an orange lower mandible,
© John Bowler
Rich olive-green above, with a complete bold eye-ring, an orange lower mandible, a distinct yellow suffusion on the throat and down the breast, plus the bird's overall 'cute' look, diagnosed the 'Empid' as Britain and the Western Palearctic's first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
A fast-moving depression whipped across the North Atlantic and struck the Isle of Tiree early on Sunday 13 September 2020. Conditions looked ideal for bringing a North American bird or two across 'the pond' and I even fantasized about finding an Empidonax flycatcher. However, checks of my local patch at Balephuil later that day produced nothing new other than a Lesser Whitethroat and a small influx of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

A fresh juvenile Common Rosefinch popped up briefly in our garden the following day and with the winds slackening in a ridge of high pressure, my bird-finding thoughts switched back towards drift migrants from the east. First thing on Tuesday morning, I casually opened the curtains of our lounge windows with a cup of tea in hand and was dumbfounded by what I saw! In exactly the same willow where the rosefinch had been the previous day, a boldly marked flycatcher eyed me from just a few metres away. Rich olive-green above, with a complete bold eye-ring, an orange lower mandible, a distinct yellow suffusion on the throat and down the breast, and very striking whitish wing-bars and edgings to the tertials and secondaries - it was an Empidonax flycatcher! I grabbed my camera and took a few record shots to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.


Identification was fairly straightforward: the shortish tail, large head with a "cute" expression and rather compact structure narrowed it down to being a Least or Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (thus avoiding the far trickier Willow/Alder/Acadian Flycatcher species grouping), while the yellow suffusion below and rich green upperparts, plus immaculate condition of its tail and flight feathers quickly pronounced it to be a first-winter Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - the first for the Western Palearctic - and a species I have seen before on migration in Mexico and Belize.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - Species Range

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - Species range
John couldn't quite believe what he was seeing when he looked out his lounge window on the morning of 15 September, finding himself face to face with an Empidonax flycatcher
© John Bowler
John couldn't quite believe what he was seeing when he looked out his lounge window on the morning of 15 September, finding himself face to face with an Empidonax flycatcher
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