From age 65 on to my present age of 80 I have taken up the hobby of birding on a serious basis, although birds have always been of interest to me. When I became serious I went back and checked off about 400 species that I had identified in my “youth”. I then decided to strive for a life list of 500 birds. Well, that has long been surpassed during my birding efforts over the last 15 or so years, and a few years ago I said to myself, if I ever get to 725 I will be satisfied. Today I did (see # 725), but of course, I am not (satisfied).
The North American Rare Bird Alert system (NARBA) has reported on two different Garganeys being seen in widely separated parts of the country: Vermont and Wisconsin. National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Third Edition) describes this duck as “an Old World species; a regular migrant on the western Aleutians; very rare on the Pribilofs and in Pacific states, and “casual” elsewhere in North America”.
My dog-eared, tattered and heavily annotated companion in the field is the National Geographic Third Edition Guide, referenced above, now outdated. I also maintain a cross-check at home, The National Audubon Society sponsored Sibley Guide to Birds. National Geographic purports to include (1) all species known to breed in North America-defined as the land extending northward from the northern border of Mexico, plus adjacent islands and seas within about two hundred miles of the coast; (2) species that breed elsewhere but are seen here when they spend the winter here or pass through on regular migration routes; and (3), accidental visitors seen here only when they wander off course or are blown in by storms if they have been seen at least 3 times in the past two decades or five times in the century (plus a very few that are expected to meet that standard). Sibley’s Guide, published in 2000, is more selective, including, generally, species that occur regularly within the area including most rare but regular visitors, i.e., loosely defined as those species recorded 10 or more times in the last 25 years.
That is probably more information than most readers want, but it is prefatory to my identification today of my 40th North American duck: the Wisconsin based Garganey, hanging out with some Blue-winged Teal two miles north of the Crex Meadows Wildlife Visitors’ Center, along Wisconsin County Road F.
Sibley shows only 39 duck species in his work; National Geographic shows 45. Both contain the Garganey, an ABA Code 3 bird. So, I hereby claim a sweep of the Sibley ducks, and number 40 on National Geographic’s list of 45. My missing 5 include two species that I have never seen anywhere: Smew and Baikal Teal (neither of which Sibley mentions); and 3 that I have seen in far away countries but never in North America: Common Pochard, Spot-billed Duck and White-winged Pintail, (none of which Sibley mentions). The 6th duck omitted by Sibley but which I have seen in North America is the Falcated Duck that I saw in California and reported on in one of my prior blogs.
Barbara had to stay home and mow the lawn today, taking advantage of our one dry day in weeks, so I don’t have any photos of my Garganey to grace this blog. Anyone interested can Google “Garganey” and see what a distinctive bird the male of the species is.