~Written By Tom Stienstra, December 3, 2017~

A duck so rare to California that some believe it might be an imported exotic pet was sighted and photographed last week at Clear Lake.

Rick Timmer looked out from his vacation home and amid a dozen mallards, saw one duck he didn’t recognize, and then photographed it with his cell phone. It was a large goose-like duck with a dark head, white collar, brown ring at the shoulders, and then white body with black wings and tail feathers.

Timmer sent the photo to me to identify the fowl: It was a European Shelduck. If a wild duck, it was roughly 5,500 miles off course from its home in Europe. Such a shelduck favors the Wadden Sea on the coast of Germany and Ireland, where it is common and single flocks can approach 100,000, according to several birding books.

“I threw out some bits of bread and all these ducks come a-running,” Timmer said. “There was this one hanging out with a bunch of local mallards.”  When the bird was identified as a shelduck, Timmer, was astounded. “If it is a migrant, it would be a long way from home,” he said. “Maybe someone’s pet. Who knows? I am trying to find out.”

This is the most rare waterfowl sighting since 2012, when a falcated duck stayed a month at the island just offshore from the viewing deck at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. The duck was a nomadic teal from Asia. The species is called “falcated” because its long wing feathers are curved and then taper to a point at the tail. It is a beautiful bird, its head is shiny green and bronze, its feathers silvery.

*Reposted from San Francisco Chronicle

Tom Stienstra Email:
tstienstra@sfchronicle.com

About the author & Outdoors Writer:  Tom Stienstra is the outdoors writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is America’s first Back Country Sportsman of the Year and the only two-time National Outdoor Writer of the year. In 2008, he won first place for best outdoors column in America. As a photographer with The Chronicle, he won first place in America for best outdoors feature image in 2011. That year he was also awarded as Far West Ski Writer of the Year. His books have sold more than 1 million copies. His first novel, “The Sweet Redemption, An Inspector Korg Mystery,” was released for 2013. His television show on CBS/CW won first place as America’s best outdoor recreation show, and his radio show on CBS won first place in 2010 for best environmental feature show in America. Tom has hiked 25,000 miles, caught world-record fish, led dozens of expeditions and taken part in all phases of the outdoor experience. He was the fourth living member inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame.

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