Photos: Shari Zirlin
Of all the places to find your lifer Tufted Duck, Puerto Rico is certainly the least likely. Tufted Duck is common throughout Eurasia, and every year there a few sightings on either coast of the North America. This duck is a Puerto Rico first. Shari & I chased one a couple of years ago that was reported on Long Island and failed to find it, despite a long search in bitter winter weather. Nice to see it while wearing short sleeves. We all saw the little tuft on its head on through 2 scopes, but it was much too far away to get any pictures. Sergio said he knew someone who had kayaked out into the lagoon to obtain photos.
The Tower Trail, as you might imagine, leads to an observation tower as well as a long boardwalk that takes you out into the middle of the water. While we were walking along the trail I saw a coot out of the corner of my eye that looked different. I scoped it out, immediately saw the red & white face shield and when the sun hit the bird just right, the rich violet body of the slightly misnamed Purple Gallinule. We saw a couple more from the head of the boardwalk.
While I was climbing the tower to see if was worth the effort for Shari, she called me with urgency in her voice. While scanning the flocks of ducks she found a stiff tail with brown horizontal lines on its face. She Sergio on the bird and he immediately confirmed her suspicion that it was a Masked Duck, either a hen or a non-breeding drake. Our fourth rare duck of the day, and one we hadn't seen since our Texas trip almost 5 years ago.
Sergio get really enthusiastic when he sees an unusual bird, saw a couple of birders he knew and called them over to see the duck. While they were checking it out, I pointed out a Magnificent Frigatebird that was hunting over the lagoon. To Sergio and his two friends, though, it was no big deal and they barely glanced at it.
|Magnificent Frigatebird (female)|
|Smooth-billed Ani along Tower Trail|