A Travellerspoint blog

Twitch: Red-flanked Bluetail!

Manchester Township, NJ

overcast 39 °F


Being in NYC for the week before Christmas, I took advantage of my freetime to twitch a (relatively) long-staying mega-rarity in New Jersey. Deemed the “bird of the century” by several long-time East Coast birders, a Red-flanked Bluetail had been frequenting a certain hedgerow in central Jersey for almost two weeks at this point, delighting hundreds, and probably now thousands, of twitchers.

This bird is a small passerine barely any larger than a House Sparrow that spends much of its life in Russia and Lapland and it is an incredibly rare vagrant to western North America. In fact, it had never before been seen east of the Mississippi so when news broke that this one had shown up in Jersey, all hell break loose.

Anyway, I arose at the merciful hour of seven AM, took the subway and the NJ transit, and coordinated with my buddy Will Schenck who picked me up for the remaining hour’s-long drive to the bird.

The hour passed quickly as time spent with Will is always time well spent, and after an enjoyable ride, we pulled up to the subdivision (in the middle of the New Jersey pine barrens nonetheless!). Many birders were present and we were gleeful upon being told, “The bird is still there!”

And indeed, after a brief jog over from the main road to the hedgerow where the bird was being seen, I spotted and pointed out the bird within a few minutes. I saw some small passerine flitting in a bush behind a metal box of some sort and pointed out that it might be the bird (as I had of course never seen this bird before but generally knew what to look for in terms of shape and size).

Indeed, this shadow of a bird eventually clearly materialized into my life bird RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL which gave fairly brief but fairly close, clinching views and allowed for just a couple shots! Absolutely awesome!!!! And it was a lifer for Will too and most others there!!

A few other birds were present including HERMIT THRUSH:




The Bluetail made another fleeting appearance but darted back into the thick bushes before I could get more pics. Either way, it was an AMAZING vagrant life bird and possibly the rarest vagrant I have ever successfully twitched! Absolutely awesome!!!! Will and I were stoked.

We made a brief stop nearby to twitch a pair of vagrant Townsend’s Warblers (from the West Coast), but they never made an appearance despite plenty of their Yellow-rumped cousins in the area:

Bird-of-the-day to the earth-shattering New Jersey rarity of Red-flanked Bluetail. No bird can even come close enough for a runner-up today! Just fantastic!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1173 Species (1 life bird today: Red-flanked Bluetail)

Posted by skwclar 00:08 Archived in USA

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Woot WOOOOOOOOOT!!! Happy lifer dance to you both! That’s so exciting!
My blue-tail was down in So Cal in 2019. Kathleen got to see the one in Idaho driving through a blinding snow storm! Such a great bird!!!

by Poo

the eye looks similar to a Thrush / Bluebird. Now I must check on how it lives !! Above birds like ?

by stephen fluett

Just WOW! what a great day!

by Mary McCutchan

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