Happy New Year?

Mandarin Duck at Lake Braddock, Virginia. Photo by Melissa

I’m not in China and I’m not at the zoo. (I’m also alive in case you five or so readers wondered why the blog was quiet!) This Mandarin Duck was recently seen by a local birder at a lake near my parent’s house in Virginia. A private community lake, so this picture proves my trespassing. Apparently, one of the local residents released three of these beautiful ducks as a gift to the community. One remains, whether a result of the cold or predators. The lake is almost iced over and this little guy has to compete with hundreds of Canada Geese and a few dozen Mallards or rely on people breaking the rules and feeding the ducks.

Melissa and I enjoyed the cute duck for a few minutes. Check out those crescent feathers on the back–they are single, broad feathers!

Should I have reported this on my eBird list? Probably, all bird data is interesting, even exotics or introduced species. The eBird scientists would welcome it, but birders who use eBird for rarity alerts might become annoyed. Just recently on the Arizona-New Mexico bird listserv, someone lambasted a person who kept mistakenly submitting sightings of Northern Goshawks from Tucson (which I guess is a major rarity for the area). I wouldn’t be in the same situation and maybe I should grow a thicker skin. For the time being, I left it out, mentioned the duck’s presence in a comment, and can later add it so that only the reviewer will see the sighting and they can determine its status.

I did a fair amount of birding in New Mexico and two crane surveys between this post and the last. I had with me a fancy survey camera and I’ll post about all that birding when I can get the pictures. Some of them are worth the wait. So…just wait, I guess!

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4 Responses to Happy New Year?

  1. John Fleck says:

    Matt – As a novice birder, I’m curious about the etiquette issue you raise re eBird reporting. My inclination is to report my unusual sightings, even if I’m only sorta certain, because it seems far more useful for other birders to know something fun might be around. This has only happened to me a couple of times. I hate to annoy a new community I’m entering by not understanding their customs and norms.

    • Matt says:

      You can write a comment on whichever sightings you’re not fully certain. Maybe a few would be annoyed, but birding is supposed to be fun! I agree, getting the word out is always better. Birders can be a weird sort, as I’m sure you’ve been learning. But I’ve found almost all nice birders in New Mexico so far.

  2. Hah! I trespass at this same lake frequently, and have seen the Mandarin above on many occasions. What is fascinating to me is that he is *always* with a male/female Mallard pair when I see him. Without fail. I began to wonder if the Mallard pair had raised him as their own, since apparently Mandarin ducklings look very similar to Mallard ducklings. But I couldn’t work out how a Mandarin would have ended up in with that population in the first place, and your blog post has solved the mystery. Thanks so much, it was driving me crazy! However, I’m still stymied by the threesome. I guess those Mallards are just very progressive, liberal duckies:-)

    • Matt says:

      I guess the Mandarin Duck is lonely, and Mallards will pair with any other duck that they can! He’s certainly an odd but colorful addition to the lake.

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