Celestron Big Year - 14 March 2016: Sometimes Crime Does Pay

MM - Eurasian Wigeon (1)

(Photo courtesy of Tracy Drake)


Whenever I’m traveling - or sometimes simply during the course of a normal day - I find myself in a particularly bird-worthy place and take advantage of a few unscheduled minutes to engage in what I jokingly refer to as “crime of opportunity” birding.  

Such a crime recently was committed during a recent trip to southern California when, being a bit early for an appointment with a customer that I scheduled prior to beginning my drive from Los Angeles to San Diego to set up the Celestron display at the San Diego Bird Festival, I made a right turn at the appropriate moment and found myself in the parking lot of Madrona Marsh - one of the last remaining vernal freshwater marshes in Los Angeles County.  

Grabbing my Granite 7x33mm bins out of my shoulder bag, I quickly made my way through the gate and on to the main trail. I calculated I had twenty minutes at most there so I quickly began scanning the area. Mourning Doves. American Gold Finches. A Black Phoebe. All expected.  

Hearing the calls of ducks I angled over to the first point where I could see the water. Mallards. American Wigeon. And then, right in front of me, posing as if for a picture, a Eurasian Wigeon drake. Its rusty red head and pale blue bill looked almost too perfect. So still did it sit upon the water that I actually thought it might be a decoy put there just for fun. Indeed, I watched it intently until I finally saw it dip its bill into the water for a drink. In twelve minutes on an unexpected stop I had managed to find a very much coveted rarity to the area.  

So remember kids, stay in school, work hard, but remember - when it comes to a few stolen minutes to go birding, sometimes “crime does pay.”  

Cheers and good birding to you,