Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Weekend of Surprises, pt. 2

As Maureen reported in the previous post, we were alerted yesterday to the presence of a White-cheeked Pintail in Deerfield Beach, mere blocks away from our apartment. Without specific directions, though, we drove to what seemed the most likely location and had a different adventure altogether. The directions finally came, but after dark, meaning that we had to wait at least until dawn this morning. We set out a little after sunrise on what was no more than a five minute drive -- a very welcome change, since when Caribbean strays do visit, they more often wind up in the Everglades or other areas that can be a hassle for us to get to.

The Pintail had been reported in a small lake surrounding an assisted living home, which we were able to locate easily enough. Starting at about 7:30, we began scanning the lake, finding Mottled Ducks, domestic Muscovy, and more Egyptian Geese than I've ever seen in one place. There were also several 'manky mallards', and a FOS Pied-billed Grebe. All the time we knew that the Pintail could already have flown, but we stayed hopeful, and Maureen finally spotted it after a couple of minutes. Already a beautiful, distinctive-looking bird, its beauty was augmented by its rarity, and the close proximity to our apartment -- it all seemed to good to be true!

White-cheeked Pintail

We stationed ourselves along the bank, close to the water, where we had an optimal position for watching the duck. I occasionally looked behind us, where, although a couple hundred feet away, I could see an employee of the assisted living home watching us. I'm used to suspicious onlookers, who must think we're nuts (including our friends), so I tried not to pay any attention to him. After 10-15 minutes, though, he walked up to us with a security guard and asked us what we were doing.

This type of thing seems to be inevitable for all serious birders. Birds don't always turn up where outsiders are welcome, but that's hardly going to stop the determined life-lister. I cheerfully explained that there was a rare West Indian duck in the lake. One of the men made, what I suppose was the inevitable 'joke' about eating it, and I smiled on cue. The guard made it clear to us that we were definitely not supposed to be there but also let us know that he was going to let us stick around. We stayed for several more minutes, but decided not to push our luck too hard and went back home.

I posted to the bird board that the Pintail was still around, but also stressed that security was not likely to be sympathetic to a steady influx of birders. The response, soon afterward, indicated that the duck had flown, leaving sometime between when we left, close to 8:30, and 9:30. We definitely feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the rare and beautiful White-cheeked Pintail during its brief time in the area. UPDATE: It's back!

Later on, we found a couple of Grey Kingbirds perched on the telephone wires in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. One was much more active than the other, making quick dives over a small puddle in the road when foot traffic allowed; the other staying put the whole time we watched. Like the grebe we saw earlier, these kingbirds were our first of the season.

First of season Gray Kingbird


  1. A White-cheeked Pintail is a terrific sighting. I've been fortunate to see flocks of these ducks in the Bahamas and find them to be about the cutest waterfowl out there.

  2. Nice photos of a beautiful duck. We only have one record of this species in Panama. Congratulations!

  3. Mike - that must have been amazing. They certainly are easy to look at!

    Jan & Gloriela - Thanks! We were very fortunate to see it.