May 20th was just one of those days.
Natalie and I had just finished another outstanding dinner. With dishes still needing attention but with no motivation to actually do anything about it, I opted to check my emails.
While I don't recall the exact words, the flow of a particular email was something like this: the previously reported Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were still on the pond.
A few thoughts crashed through my head. What Black-bellied Whistling Ducks? What report? What pond?
Well, it turns out that the ducks were on a retention pond only 5.5 from the house. I believe the official address would be Brownstown Township, but for all intents and purposes, it was southern Taylor if that helps you understand where they were.
Looking at this range map, it should be easy for you to understand our excitement....
Yes, folks, that's right. Those ducks had NO business being anywhere near Michigan.
Natalie and I prioritized our evening. It was easy to leave the dishes and rocket the 5 miles to Taylor.....
...where we saw nothing.
Yup. Nothing. Not a duck to be had. Other birders were on sight so we continued to poke around and look at other ponds in the area. Nothing. With our heads hung in defeat, we headed out for the loooonng drive home. (Not really. 5 miles? Come on....)
As you might expect, it is well worth it to check the pond again. Sure enough, the following day, reports were coming in of the 14 ducks back on the pond. Immediately after work, Natalie and I shot back there. Don was waiting. So were the ducks.
In case you're curious, no, I did not get crazy and paint those bills with PhotoShop. That is the natural color. All in all, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are hardly difficult to identify. Bizarre combinations of black, brown, and gray combined with that pink schnoz make for an easy ID. The fact that they will nest in a hole in tree and stand around on tree branches perfectly explains their name - they don't call 'em tree ducks for nothing!
So where does this put me? Were they life birds? No. I had seen them in Texas multiple times and once in Arizona. (They were new for Nat, but I am not sure where they stand on her list.) But lets look at it more locally. In my life time, my Wayne County List now stands at 284 birds. My Michigan List now stands at 352.
You might be wondering about that 284. Is 300 possible? You bet. Will it be easy? Oh, hell no. Bird lists are something like bowling averages - the higher the number, the harder it gets to push it higher.
We'll see where it goes.....