Last week the birding world was rocked by the news of a code 4 female Old World flycatcher (Red-flanked Bluetail) inhabiting an enclosed library courtyard at UCLA. Lucky me, I was already booked on a Sunday flight to Los Angeles for work! Truth be told, I had never even heard of this mega-rarity until an Idaho birder reported one two years ago. They winter in Asia, the Himalayas and Indochina! As I approach 800 lifetime ABA Area (USA and Canada) birds….this one was definitely NOT on my hit list.
The LA Times ran an article on Saturday about the masses of birders descending on this oasis in the city and the difficulty people had seeing (much less photographing) this skittish thrush-like creature. A winter downpour commenced at 5 this morning and continued past dawn. The crap weather did not temper my excitement but did force me to buy a cheap umbrella and a lousy poncho at a CVS.
I showed up an hour earlier than the posted public’s 9am opening time and snuck into the grounds behind an employee with the magic gate-opening swipy card. But as the big metal gate shut me in to the several acre William Andrews Clark Library grounds, I had a slight panic that maybe I would not find a five (5) inch bird in a much bigger area than I anticipated….in such a downpour
Consistent sightings were reported near a ficus tree and a u-shaped hedge. A what, where? Damn, I couldn’t get cell service to even google a ficus tree. Thankfully, after an hour, I was joined by retired police officer “Jim” who had flown home to SF from Argentina yesterday and then driven all night to chase this bird. He knew exactly where we should look. Within minutes an “LBJ” (little brown job) flashed in front of us and posed on a (ficus?) branch. The orange-red flank and iridescent blue tail were evident…even in the rain.