3-SUN-Flycatcher

A vermilion flycatcher is spotted at Maxwell Cemetery.

As Maxwell's residents may have noticed, there has been a recent surge in the amount of visitors at the town's cemetery, and (thankfully) it's not for the reason one might think.

Birders from around the state have been flocking in to catch a glimpse of a particularly rare bird — a male Vermillion Flycatcher — that was first spotted by Colusa County birding enthusiasts and Grimes natives Stuart and Linda Angerer.

"My wife was the one who first discovered it. We're both very avid birders," Stuart Angerer said on Monday. "We happened to be going out that day, as I had seen some reports on some birds that I wanted to add to my Colusa County list."

The couple was heading out to East Park Reservoir to look for Mountain Bluebirds and Bell's Sparrows. They stopped at the Maxwell Cemetery mid-day to look for another rare bird that had been spotted there — a Red Crossbill.

"Cemeteries seem to be great places for birding — they have older, mature trees and they're kind of quiet," Angerer said.

The pair spotted a group of trees likely to house the bird they were searching for, and found a more rare species of bird instead.

"My wife excitedly tried to call to me without disturbing the bird, and I went over there and she asked me, 'is that a Vermillion Flycatcher?' They're almost unmistakable, and are just brilliant in color," Angerer said.

According to Angerer, the normal range of the bird is central to Mexico. Vermillion Flycatchers are not uncommon in the southernmost reaches of California, but are exceedingly rare this far north — at least this far away from the coast, Angerer said.

"They have been seen up north, typically on the coast, but they're not common in the valley," Angerer said.

The birds are really uncommon, in fact -- so uncommon, that this is the first time one has been seen in Colusa County, Angerer said.

"There was one spotted in the Sutter Buttes a few years ago, but this is the first documented Vermillion Flycatcher that has been spotted in Colusa County," said Angerer.

The Stuart and Linda Angerer's discovery has brought birders from Napa County, Sacramento County, Shasta County and beyond to Maxwell to see the cemetery's diminutive inhabitant. With birders already in the area to take part in the Snow Goose Festival, those numbers have been even greater.

Linda Angerer, who is a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service and the bat coordinator for California's National Forests, led two field trips for the Snow Goose Festival and joined a few others as a participant as well. She said the Vermillion Flycatcher was a hot topic among her fellow avian enthusiasts.

"Every field trip I went on, someone was talking about it," Linda Angerer said.

Her husband took three field trips as a part of the Snow Goose Festival, one of which included a side-trip to Maxwell.

"All the Colusa County birds are very important to us. We try to hit up all the sites we can and look at the different areas in the county, so we're very active. Over the last 15 years, we have done it as something to do on our vacations. About two and a half years ago, it really sparked and expanded. It's a real passion of ours, and we enjoy doing it together," Stuart Angerer said. "It's nice to have that feather in your cap — hearing people talk about it and being able to say, 'Yeah, we were the ones who spotted it.'"

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