Bob and I were delighted when we spotted a Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) sitting below the nesting hole of two woodpeckers at Second Marsh, near Oshawa, Ontario.
Second Marsh Wildlife Area is a large wetland on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and when combined with the adjacent McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and Darlington Provincial Park slightly further to the east, the protected area encompasses nearly 400 hectares of land.
Bob and I set off along the Marshland Trail that borders Second Marsh. In the distance, we could see the peninsula that protects the marsh from Lake Ontario proper. We were grateful for the cool breeze sweeping in off the lake as it was a very hot day for our outing.
Willow Flycatchers are another species of songbird whose survival is compromised by the parasitic behaviour of Brown-headed Cowbirds.
We took this picture of a Brown-headed Cowbird earlier this spring at Lynde Shores Conservation Area, in Whitby. If a cowbird lays its eggs in a flycatcher’s nest, they may bury the cowbird’s eggs in the lining of the nest or even build a second nest on top of the first one.
It is so difficult to pinpoint a bird with your camera lens when it is the colour of the surrounding branches, especially such a small little flycatcher with an olive-brown back!
Willow Flycatchers prefer to breed in wet, brushy areas, and Second Marsh provides the perfect nesting habitat with woodland, meadow and marsh all in close proximity to one another.
Willow Flycatchers will wait on a perch and then dart out to catch flying insects. As Bob and I watched the flycatcher, it flitted amongst the branches of the maple tree, probably trying to nab some unsuspecting insect.
We were enthralled with the Willow Flycatcher even though our observation was brief. The bill, with its orange-pink underside, is the most colourful feature of the whole bird and somehow makes the flycatcher all that more endearing.