Monday, January 17, 2011

The Perfect Storm

Photo by Joel Such

I think I am the luckiest guy in the world right now. Why? Today my mom suggested that Welch and I run at Golden Ponds in Longmont while she went to a dentist’s appointment. We did a couple of laps around the lakes, scoring many new SWSA birds. With a bit of open water, we finally got our first waterbirds, other than Canada Goose, on our running list. As soon as we set out, we got Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, and an excellent male Wood Duck. As I got half way around the first pond, a couple of birders came into sight, identified as the serious type not only by their binoculars, but also by their dedicated attention, the bazooka camera lenses, hats from popular hotspots in Texas, and the pishing noises they were making. As I slowed down to ask if they were seeing anything good, I thought they looked slightly puzzled as to why a runner (there were many about) would be interested in what they were seeing. As I continued running, it occurred to me that one of them looked vaguely familiar . . . maybe Larry Semo, Chairman of the Colorado Rare Birds Committee. Though I correspond with him here and there over bird related matters, I’ve only met him once and that was a couple of years ago.

Wood Duck - by Joel Such

After a couple laps around all three ponds, I saw the aforementioned birders again, this time sprawled out on the bank of a partially frozen pond, looking at a mixed flock of dabblers, divers, and geese. As I approached, I asked again if they had any good birds. I got the affirmative. A Tufted Duck! At this point I was almost positive it was Larry Semo and he handed me his binoculars, and as I looked at the bird in question . . . I asked things like “Have you eliminated possible hybrids such as Lesser Scaup x Tufted Duck, etc." He said, “Oh, you’re Marcel Such.” After a while, I took off again for another lap around the lake to get this Colorado mega-rarity on my SWSA list. As I rounded the last bend in the trail and as the pool of open water came into view, I sighted the odd Aythya duck with a tuft of punk feathers among the many adjacent Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, Northern Shovelers, and American Wigeons. Score!

Tufted Duck - by Joel Such

by Joel Such

by Joel Such

by Marcel Such

This Tufted Duck was a lifer for both Welch and myself, and the third Colorado state record. The last Colorado record was in 2000. When our mom arrived later, we were able to nab her camera, get our binoculars, and witness the onslaught of birders arriving to see this cool rarity.

Thanks to Larry Semo and Steve Mlodinow for finding this great bird, and for letting us view it at closer range through their binoculars before our mom arrived back with our gear. It was Steve’s first day in Colorado (he’s moving from Everett, WA to Longmont), and Bill Schmoker recommended they go to Golden Ponds as a place to study Canada Goose subspecies. We usually have to beg our parents to let us chase things, so the way the day panned out was a perfect storm in our minds!

2011 SWSA Totals
Species = 37
Miles Run = 35.7


  1. I love your blog! And the pix are awesome.

    also a birder but have never seen the tufted duck.
    kathi from littleton

  2. Excellent post! Great pictures! How far were you from the ducks and what lens were you using?

  3. Dang... I wish I had punk hair like a TUDU.

  4. Chad,
    The closest we were the Tufted Duck was about 20 yards, and the closest to the Wood Duck was ~8 feet. We used a 400mm lens.

  5. I keep coming back for more and there is nothing new! hey guys...