American Wigeon  taken seriously

On Sunday 13 November 1994, I visited the bird hide at Spaarnwoude. During my early years as a birdwatcher I came here every week, looking at birds and soaking up bird knowledge from other visitors. In particular, Hans Schuurman became my mentor. He was an enthusiastic birdwatcher and a great storyteller. In fact, he was interested in almost every living creature and would have animated conversations with whoever crossed his path. Especially when accompanied by the talkative Lodewijk Blokland, an almost endless stream of interesting and funny stories filled the atmosphere. It was one of the reasons why I liked visiting the bird hide so much.

On this particular morning, however, I had the place to myself. Only the cheerful whistles of a large flock of Eurasian Wigeons Mareca penelope were to be heard. As I had watched them so many times before, I was very familiar with their appearance and behaviour. Much to my surprise I now came across a different-looking wigeon. Its forehead and crown were cream instead of yellow, the rest of its head was greyish with a dark mask instead of chestnut and its flank and scapulars were pinkish-brown instead of grey. This had to be a drake American Wigeon M americanaI could hardly believe my luck! After making sure I was not hallucinating, I jumped on my bike and raced home. Proudly, I called Hans and the Dutch Birding birdline – a telephone information service – to spread the news. I then raced back and waited for the first birders to arrive.

To my relief, my report was taken seriously and so was the duck – it was not discarded as an escape from captivity. It stayed for three days and was seen by many birdwatchers. At the time, it was accepted as the 16th record for the Netherlands (Wiegant et al 1996). 

American Wigeon intobirding.com

Nowadays, American Wigeon is recorded in small numbers annually and from 2015 onwards it is no longer considered by the CDNA (Haas et al 2014). This is a drake near Katwijk in March 2018.

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Published 16 March 2018