Monday, June 22, 2009

Mystery Duck in North Dakota

Monday, June 22, 2009

Along North Dakota's State Route 36, headed west from Pingree, ND, the slightly rolling landscape gently lifts itself onto the coteau, where glaciers dropped their heavy load of ice, rock, and sand millions of years ago. The landscape in every direction is dotted with water. This water is in ponds, lakes, prairie potholes, sloughs, wet meadows, streams, and roadside ditches. And in every place where water collects there are ducks. Some of these ducks are nesting, some are still courting. Some are resting and foraging, and some are just passing through.

A bird watcher can scan his or her optics across a small prairie slough and see eight or more different duck species in the time it takes a western meadowlark to sing a single phrase. Gadwall, wigeon (American), teal (blue and green), scaup (lessers), ring-necks, redheads, canvasbacks, mallards, shovelers, pintails, ruddies, hoodies, all are there... The possibilities make it worth checking out any chunk of water you encounter.

While scouting west along Rt. 36 for our upcoming field trips at the Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival, Zick and I (and the kids, somewhat less willingly) stopped by a large lake on the south side of the east-west heading road. There were lots and lots of ducks: on the water, along the shore, in the reeds, flying overhead...

As I scanned with my binocs, checking off the familiar forms of the species we expected to see, I came upon a bird I did not recognize.

Mystery bird on the right.

"Holy CARP!" I said—or something to that effect!

"What is THIS? It's got an bright orange bill!"

Julie got on it and we began to speculate (read: taking wild guesses at what this bird was).

Mystery bird on the right, clearly showing a red-orange bill.

We spent the next hour studying the bird, taking regular digital and digiscoped digital photos and video. What WAS this creature?

At least one of us was sure it was some rare Asian stray, blown off course by the season's final Alberta Clipper and deposited in our laps for this, our seventh P&PBF in North Dakota.

To be continued tomorrow.....


On June 22, 2009 at 4:37 PM TR Michels said...

It is probably a Rosy-billed Pochard.

God bless,

T.R. Michels
Trinity Mountain Outdoors

On June 22, 2009 at 5:34 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Lovely writing, B.

I was there, and I can't wait to see what it is!

On June 22, 2009 at 6:45 PM Dubs said...

It probably just ate a cherry orange popsicle.

On June 22, 2009 at 8:04 PM Mark James said...


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On June 22, 2009 at 8:06 PM Paula Sullivan said...

Options are limited. Rosybill or Photoshop.

On June 23, 2009 at 1:19 AM John Rakestraw said...

It looks like a Lesser Scaup with a red leaf stuck to its bill, but that may be just the dull pragmatist in me. If it is indeed something rare and wonderful (not that Lesser Scaups aren't wonderful) I will rejoice right along with those of you with more vivid imaginations.

On June 23, 2009 at 9:34 AM dguzman said...

WOW! Love that beautiful red bill, whatever it is! And hey, don't forget to generate some income on your blog or whatever... ?

On June 23, 2009 at 10:51 AM Patrick Belardo said...

Looking forward to hear what it is!

On July 2, 2009 at 6:50 AM Tanya said...

Hmmm, that was interesting. Looks like somethings will always remain mystery.

I myself has been trying to solve the mystery of the legend that forces you to have "earn it before

having it", for a wile now. Could not understand much though.

Let me know in case you get to understand the mystery of the Old Hound and the Legend

By the way, good writing style. I'd love to read more on similar topics

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