Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Counting coots

Birders of Echo Park unite: January 2, 2011.

American widgeons make v-wedges in the water as they steam toward the bird watchers: Count us, count us! The real bird nerds.

There they were at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, a small flock of bird nerds, 19 in all, I think, gathered near the boat house at Echo Park Lake, preparing for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count at the lake. Binoculars in hand, bird guides. When yours truly arrived a number of lesser scaups and northern shovelers (wild ducks) already were counted, as well as mallards of course. It was cold -- for SoCal -- and the rain was coming, within three hours it turned out. Led by neighborhood activist Judy Raskin, we set off clockwise, scanning the trees, phone poles, the water, and the island for any of 41 different types of birds at the park -- or across the street. Asked about boundaries, Raskin said, "If you can see it count it." An exception was the domestic ducks -- the white ones. They didn't count. But what about the mixed breeds, or hybrids, the tawny, pewter, or black-and-white ducks that are half wild mallard and half domestic? They don't count either. But the pigeons, or rock doves, were counted in neat little five-cross rows. It's all about categories, and Raskin explained to me, there is no category for the odd ducks. Not with the National Audubon Society. I'm sure there are good ornithological arguments for this.

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