By Devin Blankenship
Eric Heidman knew that he was in luck when a drake pintail sailed into his decoy spread on opening day of California's duck season. What he didn't know was that the bird was banded-or the story behind its travels.
"A buddy of mine, Jared Wolfley, was lucky enough to draw a reservation at Delevan National Wildlife Refuge for opening day," said Heidman, whose brother Brian is an engineer at DU's Western Region office in Sacramento. "We chose to hunt a blind on the south side, and I shot the bird around 10:30 a.m. It splashed down quite a ways from the blind, so my hunting partner took his young Lab out there to retrieve it."
It was only after his friend returned with the banded bird that Heidman discovered its unusual origins. He returned home and reported the band recovery to the Division of Avian Conservation in Konoyama, Japan. He soon learned that the pintail was at least 14 years old and was banded the day after Christmas 2001 at the Saitama Duck Refuge in Obayashi, more than 5,000 miles from Delevan. Heidman's pintail is only the 16th duck banded in Japan that has been recovered in California since 1977.