- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—An early morning walk along Lake Mauvaisterre had bird-watchers flocking to the city Monday to catch a glimpse of a rare view: A bird native to the Arctic and northern Alaska seldom seen this far inland.

Routt Catholic High School freshman Colin Dobson spotted the red phalarope as it was swimming on the lake. He shared his find with fellow bird enthusiast Tony Ward and word quickly spread, drawing sight-seers from as far away as Chicago, O’Fallon and Pawnee.

When Dobson first saw it, he suspected it was a red phalarope, but because the bird is molting it was a little difficult to identify. The bird changes feathers for the seasons; it is now largely white with some black feathers mixed in.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Dobson said.

The bird tends to be spotted off the West Coast, Ward said.

“They spend winters mostly off the coast and are really hard to find unless you are looking for them,” he said.

Different from its cousin, the red-neck phalarope — a more common bird in the area — Ward said it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the two, but he is certain it is a red phalarope because it has a different-shaped beck and posture.

The bird is so far out on the lake it is impossible to view without a telescope. Ward said some people have tried using their iPhones to capture a picture through a scope, but have been unsuccessful.

Although sightings are rare, this isn’t the first time a red phalarope has been spotted in the Jacksonville area. In the 1980s, one was seen in South Jacksonville when it had lagoons for the sewer system. Ward said he’s not sure how many more sightings there have been in the area since then.

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing around Jacksonville,” Dobson said.

More enthusiasts are expected to travel to the area to see the bird before it leaves, but Ward said it is difficult to tell how long that will be. He predicts the bird could be around for about a week if it just landed in the area.

Samantha McDaniel-Ogletree can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1233, or on Twitter @JCNews_samantha.

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(c)2015 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.)

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