Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola

On Friday November 5th 2004 Ruud van Beusekom and several other birders were counting migratory birds in Flevoland, just north of the Hollandse Brug. In a group of Goldeneyes, they discovered a smaller duck, which they identified as a first-winter male Bufflehead Bucephala albeola. They warned other birders, but after an hour or so it flew away. Laurens Steijn started to bird the shores at the opposite side, just east of Muiden, Noord-Holland. Much to his surprise, he found the bird immediately! There it stayed the following days. Question is of course, is it a wild bird or an escape? The bird has no rings, is shy and very well capable to find it's own food. On the other hand, last October in nearby Lepelaarsplassen an adult female was photographed wearing a captive stock ring (black with white inscriptions) dating from 2003. This bird was not the same individual, since the Muiden bird seems to have the white of the head touching the eye and crossing the hind-neck. The bird was last seen on 19 November, but two days later, a Bufflehead was discovered near Barendrecht, south of Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland. This was clearly a first-winter male, because of the light greyish uppertail coverts. 'Careful' analysis (see below) suggested this bird was probably the same as the bird at Muiden, but the bird at Barendrecht was not shy at all and finally it proved it had some markings on the right flank opposed to the Muiden bird. The bird at Barendrecht disappeared on 5 December but re-appeared again on 11 January 2005. On 12 December at Muiderberg a Bufflehead was discovered at Muiderberg, 2 km east of Muiden. This bird wore a ring, the same as the bird from October at the Oostvaardersplassen, making things more complicated. We now have several options:
1. The bird at Muiden is not the same as the Barendrecht bird and not the same as the Muiderberg bird, making three Buffleheads.
2. The bird at Muiden is the same as Barendrecht and not the same as Lepelaarsplassen, making two birds.
3. Four different birds were involved, with at least two ringed, one certainly not and one probably (not).

5 November 2004, Muiden NH; © Enno Ebels.

Photo by © Chris van Rijswijk, inset by © Laurens Steijn.

It was accepted as the first record for the Netherlands. A notorious case was a record in February 1986, when a male stayed at Cuijck, Noord-Brabant. It was already on the lists of all twitchers at that time, but then a letter by a Belgium birder reached the Dutch Rarity Committee. He stated he had seen a pink-orange ring around it's legs. It was rejected, considered to be an escape. Later, more records appeared, but all were rejected and considered escapes. The bird from Barendrecht returned for all consecutive winters at least till 2011 and turned into a beautiful adult male.

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