What followed was one of those great "who says birding can't be exciting?" moments. As I arrived at the last (furthest downstream) viewing point along the riverbank, half a dozen Mallards flushed from behind a gravel bar in a fast flowing section of river. Each bird in the group registered in turn: brown female, ring-necked male, female, another male, another, another ring-necked male... who's really tiny... and sort of blue... wait a second! Bins up... on the bird... Harlequin! And they were behind the trees.
I waited. If the birds were going to circle back to the same part of the river they would likely stay low and come back over my head, choosing the bird sanctuary rather than the busy freeway behind the opposite bank. Sure enough, a few moments later, there they were back over the trees, up the river, and landing on the far side, a hundred yards upstream. Scope in hand I raced back up the trail - much to the bemusement of a passing photographer - and I set about watching the bird and capturing the images below.
|My first Alberta Harlequin. Even though this male Mallard it clearly trying to psych out the stranger, they really are pretty tiny ducks - 23" Mallard vs 16" Harlequin|