|Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Chippewa Falls, WI|
I normally don't "chase" rare birds. In fact, I've only done it twice. The first time was back in 2002, when I saw a report of a summer Snowy Owl near the Menards Corporate HQ in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
|Summer Snowy Owl © Mary Kay Rubey|
It was only 50 miles from where I live, and I needed an excuse for a shopping trip to the nearby "big city" of Eau Claire. I didn't know what to expect - but I didn't think I'd see a Snowy Owl.
But there it was... right where the report said it would be.
|Summer Snowy Owl ©Mary Kay Rubey|
A Snowy Owl in the summer is an extremely rare sight in Wisconsin. But a Black-belled Whistling-Duck in Chippewa Falls? Extremely rare too - only six records of this tropical bird in the Badger State. Normally highly gregarious, this lone duck is approximately 1,500 miles from the northern-most limit of its normal range.
|US Geological Survey - Breeding Bird Survey data|
I didn't think about making a special trip to Chippewa Falls to see a duck, but my Prius was due for an oil change - and Markquart Toyota just opened a new location - in Chippewa Falls.
I went back to my email in-box to check the Wisconsin Birds listserv reports for an address and got the GPS coordinates (44.9187N, 91.5097W). Wouldn't you know, that's less than 10 miles from Markquart Toyota.
Despite the weather (pouring rain and gray skies), I decided to look for a duck that - according to the USGS website - prefers tropical lagoons, marshes and streams with partially tree-covered margins; often near agricultural land.
I was amazed to find the little wooded pond on County Road F. It's on the east side of County F adjacent to the Wheaton Gas Metering Station.
|The Pond - Looking north from the Gas Meter Station|
|Wheaton Gas Meter Station (on the east side of County K)|
I scoured the little wooded pond. No Whistling-Duck. My husband, Tom, focused his binoculars on the flooded farm field on the west side of the road, across from the wooded pond. "I see it, over there" he said, pointing to a tiny dot on a tiny peninsula in the flooded field.
I pointed my binoculars in the direction he was pointing, and then I spotted it.
We watched the duck as the rain pelted my car. It looked up a couple of times. I shot a few photos from the car window.
Yep. It's a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, feeding in a flooded farm field in Wisconsin in April.