Chirps and Cheeps

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  Erie County's First Black-bellied Whistling Duck!

Published: June 07, 2019
Tags: Rarities, black-bellied whistling duck

A huge Erie County rarity showed up the other day, and, thanks to Clarence resident, Doug Mutton, it was seen by many.  Doug happened to notice a strange looking duck at the Clarence Town Clerk's pond area wandering about the grounds with the Canada Geese.  He didn't recognize the duck and very smartly took a phone shot of it.  Later, when he got home, he looked it up in his field guide.  The duck looked just like a Black-bellied Whistling Duck but he thought he couldn't be right as they're southern birds.

The next day, Doug sent an inquiry to the Buffalo Ornithological Society, asking if this could, indeed, be what this duck is.  We, at the BOS, all jumped into hyperdrive and asked for photos and any other additional information that Doug could give.  I even drove out there that day to see if I could find it.  It wasn't there and I returned home very disappointed.

In the meantime, Doug told me on the phone that he would let us know if the duck should return.  I didn't have much hope of that, thinking it was an odd spot for the duck to stop at anyway.  Why didn't it pick the marshes at Tillman or another spot with more "wild" habitat?

But as fortune would have it, Doug DID see it the next day!  I ran out there as soon as he called and was able to definitely confirm it to be a Black-bellied Whistling Duck.  I put the word out and quite a few birders came to see this marvelous visitor.  We even had birders show up from as far as northern Niagara County and Rochester.

Only a few days before, Dean DiTommaso had seen a Black-bellied Whistling Duck fly by Buffalo Harbor SP.  No one was able to re-find the bird after that and I think it's likely that this is that same bird.

It's hard to say how this rarity ended up here in Clarence, New York.  There's been a lot of unsettled weather and weather events down south.  Perhaps that caused it to leave its home - or, I've heard that they've been moving north in general.  Maybe this guy was just checking out Western New York to see if it looked suitable.  Who knows?  But one thing I know, many birders were very happy to see this unusual looking duck, some getting to add it to their life list!  And many long-time birders were also very happy to add this bird to their Erie County lists!  There were lots of smiles and lots of joy going around on this happy day!

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My first glimpse of this neat duck, the Black-bellied Whistling Duck

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He moved a bit away from me and looked like he was going to go into the pond. I slowly backed away and he relaxed.

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After I sat down, he started walking around the area.

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Black-bellied Whistling Duck

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