I have always been fascinated by landfills. In a previous life, I was the Operations Director of The Waste System Authority of Montgomery County (Pa). My responsibility was to license and regulate the municipal waste haulers and, in the interest of protecting the environment, make sure they disposed their trash loads in a properly lined, EPA-approved landfill or a (more expensive) waste-to-energy facility. My Ohio State master’s thesis (1995) was written about the future of Ohio’s county landfills and thus I visited every single one in that state.
Lucky for me, interesting birds can be found at landfills. My lifer (first) Mexican Crow was spotted at the Brownsville dump in Texas. Duluth, Minnesota’s landfill wasn’t my trip’s primary destination but it did produce a Snowy Owl along with some unusual gulls. On December 19th, 2022 a code 5 Common Shelduck was spotted in one of the pond’s on the Lebanon County (Pa) landfill’s property.
The Common Shelduck is common in the UK, Europe and Asia but NOT in the USA. It is a popular pet among American farmers so many sightings have been deemed “not countable” as domestic birds are not accepted on the American Birding Association (ABA) check list. However, recent studies have shown that breeding populations of this large, strong flyer are moving closer to Iceland and the eastern USA.
This particular bird is very skittish, lacks leg-bands and has perfect feathers. All signs pointing towards being a WILD individual. This potential mega-rarity was still present on January 2 and sat only 86 miles from Haverford. Serious “FOMO” (fear of missing out) was setting in last night so I decided to drive west this morning…..twelve hours after arriving home from a two week respite in Vermont.
The landfill operators have entertained hundreds of curious/anxious birders since December 19th. They conveniently placed orange cones on the road marking the spot to park. Then they constructed a bridge across a creek to an aerated pond where this goose-like duck was an easy spot among several mallards.
Stay tuned but I have a feeling this is ABA Area #810 for me. Happy 2023!!