On December 2, Gary Nunn located a male Baikal Teal at the Gilbert Water Ranch and Riparian Preserve in the metro Phoenix area - Gilbert, AZ. This news was quickly reported to many of the birding email lists and rare bird alerts, and birders from across the region have converged at GWR to catch a glimpse.
I saw the Baikal Teal this morning on Pond 6, along with a group of probably 20 - 30 other birders.
The Baikal Teal breeds in Siberia and winters in Korea, Japan, and eastern China. The bird is occasionally seen in Alaska, and a handful of records exist from British Columbia south to northern California. Inland records have usually been dismissed as escaped captive birds.
Captive birds are supposed to be banded and have their hallaxes (hind toes) clipped. Photos of this bird by others have shown no banding or clipping. This does not confirm this to be a wild bird, but it helps add to the possibility that it is.
The Baikal Teal was once quite common in Asia, but suffered huge population declines in the mid 1900's. It was thought to have been reduced from millions to 40,000. However, it has been enjoying a steady and rapid rebound, with an estimated population of 500,000. Along with that, it was reported that for the first time ever in 2009, two Baikal Teals were reported in Washington, perhaps adding more ammunition to the theory that this species recovery is leading to more vagrants in the USA.
It will be interesting to see if this record is accepted or not. Based on past actions, many believe the record will not be accepted, despite no evidence that the bird is an escapee. Oftentimes in situations like these, it takes a second sighting in another year to prove a pattern, at which time the original record is retroactively accepted.
Also, be sure to check out the Arizona Field Ornothologist site for many better photos and an interesting discussion of this bird.