Posted on Sun, Apr. 20, 2003
WILDLIFE: Wayward bird
Lambeth discovers mottled duck earlier this week near Grand Forks
By Lisa Davis
Herald Staff Writer
"This bird is normally found in the region around Florida, Alabama, Louisiana or Texas. This is the first time it's been seen in North Dakota." Dave Lambeth,avid birder and first to see duck
The gray, hazy sky and a little drizzle didn't keep Dave Lambeth from taking another look at the mottled duck he recently discovered near Kellys Slough. Saturday, Lambeth sat inside his green Mitsubishi Montero with his camera and scope aimed out at the pond, taking a close look at the duck.
A rare sight
"This bird is normally found in the region around Florida, Alabama, Louisiana or Texas," Lambeth said as he looked out over the pond, where water lapped gently against its banks. "This is the first time it's been seen in North Dakota."
Lambeth, an avid birder and biochemistry professor at UND, discovered the bird in the wetlands along County Road 11 Wednesday.
He said if the bird hadn't been standing in vegetation, in the middle of the pond, he would have assumed it was a black duck, a bird common to the area. But he could see its bright orange legs, a tip-off that it was a bird he hadn't seen before.
"I took a picture of it and checked my guides," he said, motioning to his well worn copy of "The North American Definitive Guide to Birds," lying next to him in the car. He had a hunch it was the mottled duck but didn't give his opinion on the picture.
His thought was confirmed when a wildlife biologist contacted him soon after he saw the picture to let him know it was a mottled duck.
About the bird
The bird can be distinguished by the its brightly colored legs and the black tip on its yellow beak. Lambeth said the rich tawny edges of the feathers on its body also helped him identify it.
After researching mottled ducks, he said he assumes the duck had mated in January and then left its mate, as is customary for mottled ducks. But even with the research he has done, he said he has no idea why the bird is so far north.
"Over the years, there have been a number of rarities that no one can really find a reason for," Lambeth said.
The mottled duck is part of the mallard group which also includes the mallard duck and the American black duck.
Fellow birder Eve Freeberg drove out to the site to take a look at the bird as well. She said she wouldn't have realized it was a mottled duck if it would have had its head down.
"I can't believe it's here," she said. "I didn't see it when I was out on the southeast coast where it belongs."
Lambeth, too, was surprised to find the bird in North Dakota, and even more surprised that he was the first to spot it.
"I've lived in North Dakota for 26 years, and this is only the second time I've spotted a state record," Lambeth said.
He also spotted a yellow-throated warbler back in 1979.
Lambeth has loved nature all his life, but it wasn't until he was a graduate student that he took up the hobby seriously. Then, he began to look up birds he had observed in his youth while growing up on a farm in Missouri.
He attributes his luck in finding rare birds such as the mottled duck to the environment provided by Kellys Slough and the National Wildlife Refuge.
"This is just a wonderful place we have here," he said. "And the more people that appreciate it the better, because it's a tremendous place for wildlife."
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