Falcated Duck - Friday 3/15/02

fbwood udub fbwood at u.washington.edu
Fri Mar 15 07:44:08 PST 2002

This morning three of us travelled to the Samish Flats and met
Hugh Jennings and others at the junction of Samish Island Road and
Samish Island. We parked where the road branches east and west on the
island, and spent between half an hour and an hour screening the huge
flocks on the ponds just south of the base of the island and west of the
road. While this was unsuccessful in locating the above target Falcated
Duck, I was amazed at the huge percentage of male Eurasian Wigeon.
There were probably 70 to 100 of them out in the distant flocks, and
that would exclude the females which were difficult to identify at
significant distance, even with the scope. This is probably twice the
total number of this species I've ever seen since I saw my first on the
U/W campus in 1960. Another element today was the flock of about 80
American Wigeon closest to the road that included no Eurasian males at
all. Segregation!
Fortunately, Bill Tweit joined us, and after scanning the flocks
of mostly Wigeon, but also some Pintails, Shovelers, and Green-winged
Teal, he left to check out another large flock of Wigeon he had seen
about 200 yards down the Bayview-Edison road from the "T" just east of
the "West 90". He and we both had cell phones, exchanged numbers, and
we soon got a call that he had located the Falcated. We hustled down to
his flock in our car and scoped the rare rascal as he grazed without
stop in the middle of another huge flock of both Wigeons. His head was
not often visible, but his silvery-gray body, and, particularly, his
lateral rear with white and tan patches divided by a black line made him
easier to spot. This field mark is best illustrated in Madge and Burn's
"Waterfowl". National Geographic 3rd edition shows it with less
contrast, and Peterson covers it with the falcated feathers, as does the
photo in "The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding".
A final thought relates to this duck's appearance along with the
huge percentage of Eurasian Wigeon in these flocks. I don't know the
usual percentage of Eurasians in this area of the flats in previous
years, but does this lend more credibility to the Falcated Duck's
prerence as a true Asian vagrant, as oppposed to a released captive.
Fran Wood (male)
412 - 36th Avenue, Seattle
<fbwood at u.washington.edu>

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