Friday, 16 March 2012

Excitement at Inglewood

This afternoon I took a brief stroll around Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.  There had been reports of possible Cackling Geese - a potential life bird, as well as early arrivals of Ring-billed and California Gulls, and a Harlequin Duck - a new Alberta bird for me.  When I made my way down to the river, I found the number of geese slightly down from Thursday's reported "2000+" to a total of 4!  There were about three dozen Mallards with half as many Common Goldeneyes and four Buffleheads, so I enjoyed watching their antics through my scope (the Bucephalae, not the Mallards - I'm not sure Mallards really do "antics" very often).  I was also scanning for the Harlequin.

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 
The duck was keeping close company with the Mallards most of the time I was there.  Notice the Common Goldeneye in the right of the frame: there was a lot of this displaying going on, much of it directed at the Harlequin.  The Mallards, on the other hand were almost completely ignoring the celebrity in their midst, who seemed at times to be using them for some measure of protection.  Perhaps the Goldeneyes perceive competition from other diving ducks, while the Mallards, as dabblers, are ambivalent.  Any thoughts?  Or perhaps you've seen this behaviour before?
That was about it for my Inglewood birding.  A couple of gulls flew over while I was admiring the Harlequin.  They were probably Californias.  Or Ring-Bills.  My day had already been made.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on seeing a magnificent bird to add to your Alberta list David! I wish I could have been there to see the Harlequin Duck too, It would have been a great addition to my life list.