|Small and silent...they are birds of the shadow.|
I first saw this bird in February around Patagonia Lake in southeast AZ and thought it was a Gray Flycatcher. Gray's and Dusky Flycatcher's look very similar and frequent similar haunts. Grays have a slightly longer tail and the adults are a bit paler. I think I'll stick to Gray for this bird, but some nagging feeling says this could turn into a Dusky at any moment...or even something much, much more embarrassing.
Slightly smaller than the Gray Flycatcher, which also seems to be the most common of these first three, the Dusky Flycatcher also has a short, dark bill and prefers lower, thicker brush to set up its insect ambuscades.
I've been told though that all those bets are off in migration, and while my first inclination was to call the following bird a Dusky, the long primaries and stubby bill have experts saying Hammond's. One way or the other, the empids win this round...
I see these Flycatchers with every later spring and summer visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens. Because the Cordillerans typically stay in the higher altitudes, the general opinion among the DBG regulars is that the Flycatchers at the DBG must be Pacific-Slope. However, it's pretty far inland for Pacific Slopes too, so it still doesn't seem any more likely to me that it's one or the other based just on their normal ranges. The Sibley's field guide doesn't show either coming into the Phoenix area much, but the Cordilleran's summer range, though normally at higher altitude, is nearer by. Sibley only shows the Pacific-slopes coming through central Arizona during migration. Empids like the one below can be found at the DBG throughout the whole summer, even on the same perches, which makes me think they're not just migrating through, but are actually sticking for more than a few days. Given the options, it seems to me that the likelier bird is the Cordilleran, which at least is a summer resident in nearby parts of the state--even if I must contravene The #1 World Birder's 4th rule about trying to be a better birder.
The bird photographed below is probably a Willow Flycatcher. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I have a hard time discerning these guys from Western Wood Pewees. The Wood Pewees like to perch up higher, whereas these Willows like the little scrub stuff near marshy water, case in point:
Thank heavens for the Vermilion and other Flycatchers like it, which restore my faith in the Flycatcher family and in myself.