[CT Birds] Farmington HARLEQUIN DUCK

Roy Harvey rmharvey at snet.net
Tue Jan 12 12:20:52 EST 2010

Below is a more detailed report from Sarah Johnston, who found the Harlequin Duck this morning.

Roy Harvey
Beacon Falls, CT

 From SH Johnston, Farmington:
01/012/10 -- 1 HARLEQUIN DUCK (drake), Farmington River, Riverside Cemetery, Garden Street, Farmington

I observed the bird without interruption from about 8am until 930am. It seemed quite settled in the area. It is a bright male bird, very beautiful.

The Riverside Cemetery has a lower level that is right on the bank of the river. There is a public, paved road that provides easy viewing over the river and the fields beyond. When one is facing the river here, one is looking west. This is a good place to see waterfowl in the winter; there are always Canada Geese (coming and going), Common and Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Black Ducks, etc. This morning there was also a 1st-year Bald Eagle, 3 Ring-Necked Ducks (2m,1f) and a pair of Wood Ducks. I have also seen Red-Breasted Mergansers, Common Loons, Scaup, and a good variety of land birds as well. Good place for raptors and woodpeckers year round.

The Farmington River curves around agrigultural fields here (Tunxis Meadows), narrowing and providing the swift, turbulent areas favored by the Harlequin Duck. The bird was spending nearly all its time around or behind an old, large fallen tree trunk on the west bank, where the water was most turbulent. The left end of this trunk, which has no bark and is a yellowish-gold color, is where it was most often foraging. This area is easily viewable from the cemetery road just north of the maintenance building, in fact, you don't even need to get out of your car, just put down the car window. It did elude me for several minutes at a time, then I'd spot it again behind the trunk or bobbing up again.

The duck fed in the swift water, diving under and usually coming up pretty close to where it had submerged. It also spent long periods resting and preening, often perching near some Common Mergansers nearby. It has a mottled grey belly and grey legs and feet, not shown in my field guides. The slate-blue-grey-black color is quite beautiful, set off by the white markings and chestnut sides. At one point I think I heard its whistling call.


Sarah Hager Johnston

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