A Travellerspoint blog

The Easter Duck

Copiague, NY

semi-overcast 57 °F

Happy Easter! Today, after singing a morning Mass, I convinced Tian to join me on a foray out to Long Island to chase a would-be life bird: the Mottled Duck! This particular waterfowl was a lone male found about a week ago at a random preserve about halfway down Long Island. The species itself is quite rare for New York — its closest regular range is the swampland of Florida and coastal Georgia.

We stopped at Wendy’s to break up the long walk from the train and Tian enjoyed a Wendy’s hamburger in front of the Easter Bunny!

We arrived at the Ketchum Creek Wetland Preserve at about 4pm and I immediately noticed a group of passerines in the trees, mainly consisting of ubiquitous HOUSE SPARROWS, but there was a warbler among them — a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:

Of course, I immediately shifted gears and started peering into the wetland area at the intermittent breaks in the vegetation allowing for views from the road. There was a nice number of ducks including a drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL:

I was hoping, though, to see groups of Mallard-looking ducks as not only is the Mottled a Mallard look-alike, but this particular individual had apparently paired up with a female Mallard since arriving at the preserve at least a week ago. The Mottled’s main distinctions from a female Mallard (its direct look-alike) are its bright lemon-yellow bill but otherwise slightly darker coloration overall.


Nice to have Tian along to document the act of birding.


I became excited when I saw these AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS because they are very closely related to Mallards and sometimes associate with them (and Mottleds down south):

Notice the nice purple speculum on these birds showing visibly here:

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, a first-of-year, FOY, sighting for me:

I crossed the Montauk Highway to look at the adjacent wetland and didn’t see much aside from this DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:

So I crossed back over to the preserve, found a break in the vegetation, and crept up as close as I could get to the water without sinking into the mud. Then, lo and behold, just swimming ten feet in front of me was the female MALLARD, and her mate, the male MOTTLED DUCK, life bird #1129 for me! Hell yeah!

I quickly called Tian as she had parked herself in a sunny spot about thirty minutes prior, having had enough walking for the time being. Despite briefly hiding themselves, the two ducks soon came out again and Tian was able to get looks at them as well as document my watching them!

In these photos you can barely see the Mottled Duck and Mallard as blurs about to disappear behind me. This is how close we were!

Bird-of-the-day to the Mottled Duck, made more special in that I was able to share this lifer with Tian, but not before the runner-up bird of the day flew over the train station while waiting to return to NYC: my first-of-the-year LAUGHING GULL! It was great to see this species here as one seldom sees them away from the ocean in this part of the state:

We them took the train back to Manhattan afterward and enjoyed Chinese food for Eastern dinner — it was a wonderful holiday. Tian will be attending grad school for music composition at Rice University in Houston next year so we are trying to spend as much time together this year as possible!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1129 Species (1 life bird today: Mottled Duck)

Posted by skwclar 03:42 Archived in USA

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What! No picture of your happy lifer dance?!🕺🏻
What a wonderful Easter! We did a walk to the river and then a drive out Deer Creek in search of bluebirds…heard the western was there this morning but no luck. A beautiful day nonetheless!

by Poo

Terrific story, Henry. What fun.

Way back in the wayback, when I was in grad school at Stony Brook, I did massive amounts of birding on Long Island. Great birding all over the island.

by Edmund McDevitt

Congrats, Henry!
Lovely story and photos.
Were you wearing your fowl-weather gear?
Hope to see you in Oak Park next month.


by Jon Littman

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