Friday, May 6, 2011

Can You Say Garganey?

It is Friday nite and I am in Toledo, OH which is close to Magee Marsh. Followers of my big year may remember that I birded here last year at this same time because I so enjoy experiencing the spring migration here. But I am ahead of myself. First I need to explain the title of this post. Near Cincinnati a week ago a male garganey was found at Fernald Preserve. Fernald is a former uranium processing facility that was closed down in the early nineties. The 1000 acre property was "cleaned up" and turned into a wildlife preserve.

I left Chapel Hill yesterday morning at 4 AM and after 500 miles of driving I arrived at Fernald about 2 PM. I found several birders staking out the pond where the garganey has been seen the most. One of the birders I had met in 2007 down in Madera Canyon south of Tucson, AZ. He spends his winters there and his summers in Michigan. He and 2 other birders had been looking all day for the duck which normally lives in Asia and is extremely rare in the US. When it does show up it is usually on the west coast in the fall. Much less frequently it shows up in the spring in the east. This is only the second one to appear in Ohio.

The garganey had been seen Wed. morning, but not at all on Thursday. The top photo is of 2 northern rough-winged swallows (click on any photo to enlarge) which kept us company throughout the afternoon. The middle photo is of a young lady who stopped by and had the most decorative crutches I have ever seen. As the sun set the other 3 birders climbed into their cars to return to St. Louis, Florida and Michigan. A fourth birder, who I had met last spring in Arizona where we found a rufous-capped warbler together, headed off to Dayton. Since the garganey would be a life bird for me, I drove to Harrison, OH to spend the nite to be able to try again today.

I arrived at dawn, and soon after 3 other birders who had come late the day before also returned. By 9 AM we still had not seen the duck, so I went down to the visitor center to see what birds were in that area. I had the good fortune to talk with Howard who has worked for almost 20 years transforming the place. He took me back into a restricted area where we flushed the garganey and a pair of blue winged teals. They flew to the bio wetlands next to the visitor center.

I did not know this at first, so I left to have some breakfast, but was called and told that they were feeding in the bio wetlands. I came back and was able to get the bottom photo above--the garganey is the duck on the right. The birder who had gone to Dayton for the nite and lives in Millville, NJ, also returned to see and photograph the garganey. As we parted we both reckoned that our paths would cross again.

I read this evening that Matt Stenger who lives in Harrison and is doing a big year (716birds blog link on this blog) was able to see the garganey today as well. I had heard that he had been looking for it yesterday too, but he left before I arrived. I was sorry to miss him both times since it would have been nice to talk with him about his big year effort.

When I got to Magee Marsh at 3 PM today I found a major migration day was happening, plus ran into Greg Miller who I have known for several years. He along with Al Levantin and Sandy Komito will become household names this fall when the movie, The Big Year, is released. More on the spring migration up here, the movie and Greg Miller in my next few posts. Stay tuned!


  1. It was fun to see you, Chris! I look forward to spending some time with your blog.

    The book I tried to tell you about is, "From Laurel Hill to Siler's Bog," by John Terres, a former editor of Audubon Magazine and author of the Encyclopedia of Birds. The book is about his studies/walks on the Mason Farm, a property given to UNC, as I recall. I believe the book has been re-named, but I don't find the new name associated with my search.

    Helen Ostermiller from Ohio

  2. Chris,

    I'm just getting caught up, but wanted to send along a post of thanks for your help in locating the Garganey.

    It was great to see you again and to find yet another great rarity together.

    I'll look forward to the next great find we share at some future birding location.

    Steve Glynn
    Millville, NJ