7 December 2010
Morgan Jackson and I traveled to Gilbert today to see the Baikal Teal that was discovered by Gary Nunn on 2 December 2010. After hearing that it had been on Pond #6 yesterday, I headed that way with a few birding acquaintances that had also chosen this morning for "the chase." We were not disappointed! I spotted the mega-rarity in question at 8:30AM, in the center of the pond amongst many Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal. Though we enjoyed wonderful views through the spotting scope, my digiscoping efforts were a bit more dismal.
Fortunately it's already been documented rather well by much better photographers with much better equipment, and does not show any obvious signs of former captivity. Of course it's difficult to prove a negative, but at least there are no bands, no clipped hallux, and feather condition appears consistent with "wild" status. The bird certainly seems wary enough, and isn't hanging out around the urban fishing docks for bread crumbs (yet).
After we had finished drinking in the beauty of the Baikal Teal, my attention turned to a call note that sounded exactly like a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Eventually, I found the source of the note: a down-slurred "wheeewww!" Well, it turns out that it WAS a Dusky-capped Flycatcher! Not that these distant photos prove it, but the bill size and body proportions look right. At any rate, its call is extremely distinctive.
I don't have the Maricopa County guide right in front of me, but "Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona" (Mark Stevenson ed. 2007) indicates that there are only 2 winter records from the area covered by that book, which is roughly from Casa Grande due south and east. It seems that this would constitute a fairly rare record for Maricopa County, let alone in December when they should be well south in Mexico (or beyond). The brightness of the rufous edgings to the tail feathers - and the simple fact that the bird is quite far from its nearest cohorts - lead me to believe it's a hatch year (HY) bird.
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