PA Landfill hosts a (potential) CODE 5!

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!!

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to PA Landfill hosts a (potential) CODE 5!

  1. joek49 says:

    Beautiful bird, George! Nicely done. Great way to launch the New Year!

  2. Bill Warden says:

    Even I can tell that’s not a bird. It’s a duck.

  3. Jeff Day says:

    Congrats, George, and glad the bird chose (uncommon) Lebanon, PA for you. What a way to start 2023!

  4. Southgate, Douglas says:

    Congratulations, George.

    If my memory serves, you worked at one time for Montgomery County, perhaps for the Waste System Authority.

    Keep after those elusive avians!


  5. Shellie Unger says:

    Pretty bird. Like the colors.

  6. myrawood says:

    Now that’s a handsome duck!! Nice way to start the new year.


  7. Jay Bennett says:

    We’ll played Woodie!

  8. Julie Zickefoose says:

    This is way cool. I’ve seen this duck in South Africa and got really excited–so stately and big. I hope it works out to be countable for you, George! Got your book in the mail via a very circuitous route just the other day. Thank you for thinking of me!–Julie Zickefoose

  9. Arlin Green says:

    What a beautiful bird!!!
    Happy & Healthy New Year to all!

  10. Scott Tuttle says:

    Thanks Happy New year ! Scott

  11. jmbuck3 says:

    Well geez, Woody. If it walks like a duck… IT MUST BE A CODE 5!!

  12. says:

    Happy New !!!

    Great bird great story. In a prior life I worked for Vivendi, trying to privatize municipal water and waste systems!!!



  13. Gerald Rosenberg says:

    You are amazing!
    For your next book, vol II
    or addendum to vol I
    Which I am enjoying reading
    Keep on….you go

  14. Victoria Arthur says:

    What a beautiful duck! Your landfill story reminds me of this….One of my favorite spots to visit in Austin, TX area is the Hornsby Bend water treatment area, where I got treated to several species of ducks that I did not know on my first trip there. Who knew? But the local Audobon lists it as a hot spot. The guards at the plant know full well that the majority of visitors there are birders. It can be slightly stinky in some spots but finding the birds is great!
    With the warming temps in VT right now, the Grosbeaks have moved into the woods I think in search of food. Only the occasional one coming to the seed feeders right now, but as soon as the snowpack comes back, I hope they’ll be back!
    Happy New Year!

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