My Life’s Birds: #493
February 2, 2009 – Archie Elledge WTP, Forsyth Co, NC – The missive came crackling across the airwaves with all the urgency of a celebrity relapse.
Tufted Duck… Archie Elledge Winston-Salem… still being seen…
Ok, so maybe airwaves weren’t involved. This is the 21st, after all, it was the intertubes that were crackling (or zooming or something, we really need a action verb to describe the sounds a busy internet makes. Buzzing, maybe?), but the urgency was real. After all, it’s not terribly often a first state record comes along even if North Carolina’s last state first, a Scott’s Oriole, was just under a year prior. This time it was this duck, practically annual in the northeast part of the continent and likely driven south by frozen ponds farther north. When Winston-Salem birder Hop Hopkins spotted a stubby tufted individual in a pond at the water treatment facility in south Winston-Salem (a WTP, incidentally, that has a reputation for hosting excellent birds), the race was on with a vengeance.
I was one of many birders who saw the Tuftie within a dcouple days of its discovery. The question hanging above so many vagrant ducks is that of provenance, and with dozens of breeders in North Carolina, it’s a question that never really gets answered to complete satisfaction. But this bird was also sharing the small pond with a pair of other rare ducks, a female Common Goldeneye and a subadult White-winged Scoter, one rare outside of the mountains and the other rare off the coast. The trifecta was reason enough for the state rare bird committee to consider the the star of the trio to be a genuine vagrant. Between the weather farther north and the company it kept, all signs pointed to the real deal here and besides, calling into question the most recent addition to the lists of a state full of excited birders would have invited a mutiny. And state RBCs, whose authority is arbitrarily agreed to anyway, need all the authority they can get.
A fine bird, and the second state first in a row I was fortunate enough to get to.
photo from wikipedia