Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eurasian Wigeon

It's been a week for lost birds! The day after Pops and I observed and photographed (albeit, somewhat poorly) a Lewis's Woodpecker at Encanto Park in central Phoenix, I saw a Eurasian Wigeon mixing it up with the Americans at the Biltmore golf course ponds.

It was another overcast and rainy weekend, and I was doing some Christmas shopping in the area. Around 3:30pm or so, the sun was finally breaking through the clouds. I drive by one of the golf course ponds on the way home from work, and remembered once seeing a group of non-mallards. I had noticed white flashes on the heads as I drove by, and since I do not yet have good Blue-Winged Teal photos I set out with the camera. The weather was now very pleasant, even if the grass was damp, and it was just great to be outside.

The western-most pond had a few Coots, one Pied-Billed Grebe, and a few Ruddy Ducks all contentedly floating away from the shore. To the east of this pond I saw a nice, brushy area where this pond was fed from a more elevated body of water, and I figured there might be some fun Sparrows or something in the scrub.
Indeed, it was teeming with that quintessential western winter sparrow, the White-Crowned.

Once you get in birding mode, it's hard to stop. There was another pond east of the Sparrows, and I was compelled to explore.

As I cleared the ridge, there was a large group of Coots and Wigeons grazing on the putting green on the opposite shore. Even at this distance, there was one head that really stuck out...

Unlike the Wigeons and Coots that I've photographed at Grenada Park, these waterfowl were not used to people approaching them. They took to the water very quickly, and stayed far away from the shoreline. I was still shocked to see that reddish-brown head floating there with the other Wigeons. You always keep an eye out for a Eurasian, but you never really expect to see it (especially not in central Phoenix).

These guys brought together some nice Christmas colors, and indeed this felt like an early Christmas gift.  I'll definitely be trying for some closer shots of the Eurasian--hopefully he sticks around--and it'll be fun to try and pick out a female in the flock.

I sent the sighting in to the Arizona/New Mexico Birding listservs, but it didn't get posted, so maybe this isn't actually that uncommon of a sighting. Either way, it's another cool new bird!