Monday, July 19, 2010

Black Bellied Whistler In Reston

Paddling around the lake on Saturday (post to follow) we spotted the strangest looking bird. I saw the duck on a hill by Rob Thomson's house. Let  me explain why this duck was strange looking and did not look like any bird I have ever seen, especially in Reston:

Legs -looked like a big turkey's, pink color
Body - like a big female Mallard
Beak - like an artificially colored orange popsicle

The bird was hiding behind trees and did not want me to get a good look at it. Then it flew off.

An hour later we passed a party barge (pontoon boat on the water, people actually use them? Most are sinking and have plants growing on them) and all the passengers had birding binoculars. I asked them if they 'saw the duck' and they responded with 'you saw the duck WHERE?' They told me it was a black bellied whistler and was native to the Texas gulf coast. They wrote about it on a Facebook page and told they word was out that a rare bird was in town. Take a look at this site for a close up image.

I came back out to the lake at 2 pm for another guide trip and wheeled the canoe down to the boat ramp. There was a gentleman there with birding binocs and a spotting scope. The same stuff my friend Brendan took everywhere in college. I recognized this guy as serious.

I walked up and said 'looking for the duck' and he turned around and was very surprised that I knew about the duck. We were talking about the bird with Cory Forer of Potomac Pack & Paddle who was at the lake enjoying the day.

I had an hour till my next client so I offered to take the guy out in search of the bird. Cory told us where to find the bird and we took off. Turns out the guy fly fishes and had some great stories about Ted Williams, Lee Wulff, and Joe Brooks !


The bird was just where it was supposed to be. It was hanging out with a bunch of mallards. My passenger took some close up pics and said that the birds behavior was indicative that it was a wild black belly and not an escapee from a farm. It was shy and walked right under some branches when we got close. He could not verify if its toe nails were rough or not based on our distance but apparently this can tell you more about wild vs. farm escapee.

Anyway, he was just as excited to see the bird as me. He stated he has seen them by the thousands in the gulf and in Costa Rica and that they are not supposed to be up here. Not this side of the Mississippi for sure. His enthusiasm makes me want to keep track of my birds more as I did back in college when hanging out with Brendan. I saw another duck that I did recognize but no images of that.

If you came across this blog while looking for this bird or accounts of it in Reston, send me an e-mail and I can try to take you out to look for it. Most of the shore is private and this bird was hanging out on private property.

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