Thursday, October 22, 1998

Fulvous Whistling-Duck at Rodman Ponds

Danny George discovered a Fulvous Whistling-Duck at Rodman Ponds. It was mixed with a flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks that roosts there at around 5 p.m.

On Thursday, October 22, 1998, Susanne Follett and myself went to the Cocoli spoil pond (actually Velasquez dump) to complete our survey in that area for the NTT bird count. We had been there previously on Tuesday, October 20, 1998, and were returning to see if any more migrants had arrived or if we could find a few more resident species. A little before 5:00 P.M., we stopped midway along the berm on the canal side of the spoil pond, focusing our attention on a group of about 30 tree-ducks and assorted peeps, stilts, and yellowlegs. Water depth in this area was variable, but not deeper than about six inches where the wood ducks were located.
After several minutes of observation, I noticed that one of the tree-ducks looked different. It was about the same size as the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, but apart from the main group, on one leg, facing away from us at a distance of about 150 feet, slightly below eye level. The evening sun was on my right hand, at almost a 90-degree angle from our line of observation. What caught my attention initially was the ruddy or tawny appearance, darker on back, a dark stripe down the back of the neck below the crown, a dark crown, and a white line along the flanks giving a scalloped effect. I immediately put the scope, an old B&L 30X to use, and continued making further observations with both the scope and our 8 x 42 B&L Elite binoculars. We continued watching for another five minutes until an intermittent rain began. We noticed a dark bill, dark legs, and a dark eye. By this time we had guessed what we were looking at and were determined to see the remaining field marks to be certain: a white rump band, and whitish marks on the throat.
After several minutes the rain let up and we set up the scope again. Finally the tree-duck stretched, moving its wings, and exposing a white rump patch. But still we waited hoping the duck would turn its head or face in another direction. As I was looking through the scope, it moved, turning to our right and moving slightly so that I could see whitish marks on the throat. We continued watching seeing the throat marks clearly. Suddenly all the wood ducks took flight, turning and flying around us to the mangroves to our rear. Again we saw the white rump patch as it took flight, but soon lost it in the 50+ wood ducks that were flying away from us.
After reviewing our field notes and discussing our observations, we concluded that we had just seen our first Fulvous Whistling-Duck, and commented that the small ponds in the Cocoli area continue to attract unusual migrants. Our total observation time was about 20 minutes.

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