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Posts Tagged ‘Least Tern’

An up close look at a pair of Eurasian Wigeons. — Wikimedia photo

          I was a reporter following former Congressman Jim Hansen around for the day for a newspaper story back in the early 1990s, during which we stopped for lunch at the Bear River Duck Club near Northern Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

          As Hansen and I stepped outside to take in the birdy wetlands view after our meal, a number of nearby members of the club — locally known as the Millionaire’s Duck Club because of the status of its members — suddenly became animated and excited. One of them, looking in our direction, shouted: “Hey Jim!  There’s a Eurasian Wigeon among that flock of ducks out there.” It was a quite rare find for Utah, I was told.

I took a quick look, and noted it down in my notebook for possible inclusion into my story.

Some years later, April 1, 1999, to be exact, I admitted I was addicted to bird watching, and started my life list of birds. The list began with the birds I saw on an outing to Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake. But then I remembered that day at the Duck Club with Hansen and added Eurasian Wigeon at the end of that day’s list.

It was an addition that I soon regretted. I could only identify an American wigeon with a field guide handy, and wouldn’t have recognized a Eurasian species if one stood two feet in front of me.

This early episode in my birding adventures was brought to the forefront of my brain while reading the latest issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest. There is an article in it by Dawn Hewitt called The Curse of the Least Bittern, in which she writes about adding this particular bird to her life list on Dec. 31, 1982, at a pond thick with birdwatchers. Someone yelled out “Least Bittern,” and while Hewitt says she has no memory of seeing the bird, she added it to her list.

Not sure why either of us didn’t later just scratch the dubious birds off our lists, but we didn’t. We both went on a hunt to actually get a good look at our respective birds. I was the luckier of the two, I spotted the Eurasian Wigeon five years later in a group of ducks at Yellowstone National Park. It took Hewitt 22 years for her to get a good look at the more secretive Least Bittern, which by the way is not one of the 700 plus birds on my current life list.

Hewitt and I are alike in another way, too. We both remember the sighting of that first bird on our lists. Mine was an American Avocet and hers was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

          Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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