Friday, February 25, 2011

Duck Hunting

While I'm out in San Diego, I subscribe to and read SDBIRDS, the San Diego Birding List. People post the locations of interesting or rare birds that they see. For the last couple of weeks, people have been posting about a Long-tailed Duck in Mission Bay, right where we're staying.

I don't normally "chase" birds, as it's called, but this one was tantalizingly close. And so many were seeing it. And it would be a life bird (meaning I hadn't seen it yet). The long-tailed duck summers and breeds in northern Canada and in Alaska. It winters along both coasts, but I hadn't yet seen one in Virgina. For you old timers, until 2000, the long-tailed duck was called the "oldsquaw."

(I think I probably saw it earlier in the week, before I read the reports. I had seen something that generally looked like a pied-bill grebe, way off in the distance, but with a lot more white on the head, swimming with a flock of surf scoters in the bay. Couldn't get a picture and didn't have my binoculars, so at the time I chalked it up to one of those mystery birds I would never identify.)

Fred humored me in my quest by going out three times to look for it. The first two searches, in two different parts of Mission Bay, proved fruitless. Chasing one bird in an area the size of Mission Bay is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. I pretty much didn't think that I would ever see it, and thought of giving up. But those reports of sightings kept coming!

So we went out a third time. I looked for specks of white in the Bay. Lots of loons, buffleheads, surf scoters...wait--what's that white thing? Get the scope! There it is--the long-tailed duck, swimming just a bit too far out for a good picture, but I did get this record shot of a female, winter plumage, long-tailed duck.

I was glad that my hunt was successful. Fred was glad that he didn't have to go out looking for the duck again. It was a good day for both of us!

Next: Sketching Birds at Famosa Slough....

-- Posted from my iPad!

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