Monday, January 7, 2013

A Life Bird Day!

Yesterday was a big day -- I got a new bird for my life list. Doesn't happen too often, since I've been birding around Vermont for a long time, so I'm a bit dependent on a rare bird drifting into the area. And a rare bird did last week. It's a duck called a Common Pochard, and it's so rare in North America that it's not even in any of my bird books. It's from Asia, and what it's doing on Lake Champlain near the Champlain Bridge has opened a great debate among the birding community. In fact, it's being so hotly debated that I'm not even sure if I can really count it on my list or not.

At first, everybody assumed it had been blown way off course by Hurricane Sandy. Hurricanes often bring birds to unusual places. But a keen-eyed birder on Sunday spotted a band around one of its legs. This could mean that it has been bred in captivity and escaped. If this is the case, then it's not a wild bird, and can't be counted. Or it could have been captured, banded, and released. If that's the case, it's legal to count, and could make somebody in Asia very excited to find out where this bird turned up. Right now, the race is on to get a clear photo of the leg band and settle the question.

I didn't even get a photo of the bird, since it was out too far when I saw it. Honestly, it was diving and coming up so far away from where it had been, and I was using a new spotting scope that I wasn't used to, and it was darn cold in the wind. I only got two quick looks at what I was pretty sure was it. I'm definitely thinking another trip next weekend is in order. It's only an hour and a half away! I met a couple who'd driven all the way up from Maryland to see it.

Here are a few photos I took of the area. The patch of open water was full of ducks -- mostly Mallards and Common Mergansers. There were hundreds of them.

This is the Champlain Bridge, built in 2011 to replace the old one.


And here is a little video, because this time of year, I get desperate for open water.

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