Shelmarie Main and Chloe Mallone were heartbroken when they saw a blue-beaked American wigeon collapsed on a pond drainage grate. His head hung down, barely keeping his beak out of the water, and his wings were splayed to the side.
The mother-daughter duo take walks along Village Pond Park most days to admire wildlife. On that day, two kids poking at something on the ground caught their attention. As they got closer, they realized it was a dying wigeon. His head was twisted and he barely moved. His instinct to flee seemed gone. When they touched him, he shuddered with his last breath. Just a foot away, a female mallard was struggling. Slightly more alert, the bird tried to flee but could not.
Main and Mallone moved the dying animals to safety. As they did, they discovered two more dead ducks. They called the county's animal control for help.
"It was horrible, there were so many," said Mallone, 20, who said she's been a bird geek since age 9. "To see one once in a while is normal but all of these at once, it was heartbreaking. At first I thought someone had been poisoning them."
In the last two weeks nearly three dozen dead and dying water fowl have been found in several areas across Orange County, including Lake Forest and Santa Ana. More than a dozen were found at the Village Pond in Lake Forest. At least 16 dead and dying ducks have been found at Carl Thornton Park near South Coast Plaza in Santa Ana. Most have been migratory birds such as the American wigeon, American coots and some mallards.