Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Everything old is new again
I figured that eventually, I'd get a duck called the white-cheeked pintail in Florida, a bird I have seen no less than a thousand of, (in St Martin) and a bird of some difficulty in that there are white cheeks at Busch Gardens, exotic duck ponds, zoos, parks, and all over the state. I chased one in December 2017 on Key Biscayne and missed it by a few hours and then flew all the way back to San Diego for a Nazca Booby and then flew all the way to New Brunswick for a mistle thrush and a crazy 2 out of three "Z" ain't bad double, five days of basically flying--crisscrossing the continent in a Z. It was nuts. That bird was pretty much felt to be a legit wild pintail but most of them are suspect, and I was in no hurry.
This bird showed up as we we were getting to Costa Rica and I was suspicious, it was on the wrong side of the state from where this bird lives in Cuba and the Bahamas. How did one get to Naples and in a golf course pond no less, but as it turned out, it was unbanded, no clipped toe, was acting wild, and then the local birders even got a weather consult. The SW Florida Birders are quite thorough and persistent. Dave McQuade forwarded this to me.
I am an atmospheric sciences professor at Penn State University. Last week, while on a family vacation, I saw the White-cheeked Pintail presently in Naples, Florida. Yesterday, I looked at weather maps that preceded the occurrence of this bird. I generated and then downloaded these maps from the NOAA/Physical Sciences Division Climate Analysis and Plotting Tools website, which is https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/getpage.pl . I have posted these weather maps on eBird, together with a detailed discussion of the maps in relation to the occurrence of the Naples White-cheeked Pintail. The eBird link is https://ebird.org/checklist/S62795465 .
The weather maps show winds that are favorable for a vagrant White-cheeked Pintail that arrived either in the early afternoon of Dec. 27 or sometime during the day on Dec. 28, 1-2 days before the White-cheeked Pintail was first observed in Naples on Dec. 29. On these two days, the wind vectors are oriented westward from the Bahamas toward the southern tip of Florida, and farther to the west, the winds are oriented northwestward in a direction parallel to the southwest coast of Florida. Therefore, if the White-cheeked Pintail is indeed a natural vagrant, and it flew parallel to the local wind vector, it could have flown westward from the Bahamas to the southern tip of Florida, and then parallel to the southwest coast of Florida, coming down in Naples. Following such a route, the White-cheeked Pintail would have first encountered land on the southwest coast of Florida, not the expected east coast of Florida. In other words, the weather 1-2 days before the White-cheeked Pintail was first seen appeared to being close to "perfect" for its occurrence as a natural vagrant in Naples.
There are no other times during the entire month of December 2019 that were favorable for a White-cheeked Pintail reaching Naples. The wind direction on the morning of Dec. 27 as well as 15 days earlier on Dec. 12 was also westward, but the bird would have had to cross all of southern Florida to reach Naples, an unlikely scenario.
In summary, the weather maps suggest that the likelihood that this bird is a natural vagrant is substantially higher than that for a typical White-cheeked Pintail sighting in south Florida.
Steven B. Feldstein
Professor and Senior Scientist
Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science
516 Walker Building
The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 USA
It was good enough for me. We left South Dakota on Wednesday and drove down hard, we got a little ill, had to watch the NDSU Bison win a national championship, the Vikings lose and the Packers win, and then today I could go.
I took along a local guy a few campers over from us at the campground, named Tim on his first bird chase and he thought it was interesting.
We got delayed thirty minutes when a pickup with a trailer got wedged into a McDonald's drive-thru, and then I was shaking my head wondering how come I hadn't gone to McDonald's before the gas station. While we were waiting in the overflow line for our sandwiches an employee sheepishly walked out to us asked if we could substitute bacon for sausage, something we didn't want to know about happened to all of the sausage.. Maybe it was good we weren't earlier? Things always work out for us.
We got down to Naples and then scouted the area and luckily I saw two birders I recognized from Connecticut, and I think from another duck chase to New York for a garganey in 2016. They had scopes up, we stashed the car, walked a couple of blocks and I set up shop, got my scope up and bingo, there it was on the other side of the pond loafing with some blue-wings and a small group of mottled ducks.
Some bikers rode by and asked what the name of the duck was that we were watching. "Fred!" I yelled back. It could be an Ethel, I guess, the sexes are the same with this species. The guys from Connecticut left and who should walk up to me, but Tony Lau from Minnesota. It was old home week, again, in Florida, last time I met an old birding friend from Georgia and Alaska down here and now Tony, small world birders
I've chased a few birds with Tony before. "I thought you were in Costa Rica." Tony said.
"Yea, that was last week." I replied, it was.
Then a boat moved into where the ducks were hanging out and they all flushed and the white-cheeked pintail flew up and over my head and that as they say, was that. It was gone. It was good we hadn't slept in, the duck wasn't waiting around today. What they guy in the boat was up to, wasn't clear, but if his goal was to push the duck somewhere else, it worked.
Tony had gotten lifer bird 559 I think, and this was 803 for me, depending on what I am doing with the yellow chevroned parakeet, countable now in California and I'm not sure what they are doing in Florida, seen one as recently in Florida as last year and I haven't counted that one. Luckily a sixth birder showed a minute before they flushed and just got the bird, so everyone I met was happy, even Tim, surviving his first bird chase. His significant other was getting an ultrasound for a DVT at 2PM so we needed to hurry back to North Tampa.
I also saw a nice green heron
All year birds because it is a new year and everything old is new again, you got to love us listers our lives repeat every year, just like the white cheeked pintail, a common bird I don't even take photos of in the Caribbean anymore (I got great ones) is today's great bird!
Again everything old is new again...
Congrats Tony! Good lifer
Me, I'm getting the beer chilled
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