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Rare duck returns to Colusa refuge
Samantha Smeed missed the show last year — but the Woodland woman was not going to miss it this year.
Donned in a bright pink rain parka, Smeed was out at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge with a handful of others to catch a glimpse of the rare Asian falcated duck.
The duck was first seen last year, and attracted national and international attention, and attracted hundreds to the Colusa refuge.
The falcated duck was spotted by refuge Manager Mike Peters about 10 a.m. Sunday, and again Monday morning near the viewing platform.
"I started to let some people know and we probably had about 25 people out here at one time," Peters said.
The return of the Asian bird is not a complete surprise to Peters, who thought the bird might find its way back given some history with others in its species.
Falcated ducks that had unexpectedly showed up in Oregon and other locations have frequently returned.
"So I thought we had a good chance that he would come back," Peters said.
And that was good news for Smeed.
"My friends and I are avid bird watchers; I've been one since I was a little girl in Munich," said Smeed in her birth-place German accent.
"I was out of the country last year when this little fella dropped in last year, so when my friends told me he was back, I rushed up here."
The rare duck is in the teal family and is named for the male's long, falcated — or sickle-shaped — tertials, the wing feathers near his body that overhang onto the tail.
Peters said with the storm activity in the area, including one that was expected to come in as early as Tuesday, it is unknown whether the bird will stay in the area or not.
"I just hope a hunter does not get him," Smeed said.
The very thought of that caught the attention of the others who came out to see the bird Monday afternoon.
"That would be horrible," said Clifford Talks, a friend of Smeed's from Davis.
"I am a hunter myself, and have hunted in Colusa County many times," Talks said.
"I have not seen this bird in flight so I don't know what it looks like in the air. Hopefully, he just stays where he is at."
Where he has been at mostly is among other teals near the viewing platform, which is accessible by foot.
The last storm has temporarily closed the auto tour circuit at the refuge with water from the 2047 Canal overflowing in some areas.
The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge is located on the south side of Highway 20 west of Colusa.
As many as 300,000 ducks and 100,000 geese have been known to make the refuge home for at least part of the winter.
Typically, the refuge hosts about 25,000 visitors annually, but that number certainly was much higher last year because of this duck, and Peters expected the visitor count to be up even without the duck because of the exposure it received last year.
A number of improvements have been made to the facility in anticipation of the increased number of people.