As I mentioned last week, my wife, son, and daughter-in-law spent much of the month of October in Europe. Visiting the continent after the end of most of the autumn migration meant that the number of bird species I could see in northern France, Switzerland, southern Germany, and Austria was much reduced.

But when it comes to waterfowl, the non-reproductive season offers some great opportunities in central Europe, as many species move south from their Arctic breeding grounds. So I made sure to visit as many bodies of water as possible during my brief birding opportunities. And I did manage to get my first glimpses of some of the species listed in my European bird guides. I also managed to see some I did not expect.

I occasionally get to see the Redhead duck near my Mexican home of Morelia. So it was easy for me to identify its close relative, the Common Pochard. But I was delighted to also see, in Munich, a resplendent single Red-crested Pochard among its more Common friends. Pochards have the most adorable way of feeding, jumping a bit out of the water before diving in.

Mallards were, of course, everywhere water could be found. Mute Swans seem equally adapted to human presence in Europe. But I considered myself lucky to meet the Common Merganser, in Munich and Salzburg, as well as a single Common Goldeneye, seen quite late one evening in Salzburg.

Geese do not make it down to my home state of Michoacán, even in winter, so I am happy to see any species of goose, even Europe’s ultra-abundant Graylag Goose.

But I certainly did not expect to see as many exotic species as I did in my limited birding time. Munich’s Englischer Garten is known to host several east-Asian Bar-headed Geese. I was a bit more surprised to find a Canada Goose there as well.

And with only a few minutes left to my stay there, who should decide to walk across my path? Only a pair of Mandarin Ducks! Take that, Central Park!

But perhaps my biggest surprise in exotic wildfowl for this trip was a single Snow Goose, seen in the Salzach river of Salzburg. Not only was the setting less exotic-friendly than an urban park, this was only the third registry for this species in Austria on eBird. Boy, was I glad I got photos!

Who would have imagined that of my ten aquatic lifers for this European trip (a list which also included the Great Crested Grebe and Great Cormorant), three would not be European, and one would actually be from my home continent of North America?

Written by Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis moved from California to Mexico in 1983. He lived first in Mexicali, and now lives in the historic city of Morelia (about halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City), where he and his wife pastor a small church. He is the author of an internationally distributed book in Spanish about family finances and has recorded four albums in Spanish of his own songs. But every Monday, he explores the wonderful habitats and birds found within an hour of his house, in sites which go from 3,000 to 10,000 feet of altitude. These habitats include freshwater wetlands, savannah grasslands, and pine, oak, pine/oak, pine/fir, cloud, and tropical scrub forests.