the Rookie Birder

I have watched birds all my life, but after reading "The Big Year," "Grail Bird" and especially Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway," plus Santa's timely stocking stuffer of "Sibley's 2003 Eastern & Western Field Guides," I made the decision to become a rookie birder beginning January 1st, 2006.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Harlequin Ducks in rough seas

Chicago Lakefront at North Avenue
Chess Pavilion

Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 315-340pm

Jacob Spendelow
posted on IBET, that on a just finished trip to Chicago, he spotted three HARLEQUIN DUCKS, including a male and two females, on our lakefront close to the breakwater wall, on a short birding excursion he fit in during his trip. As he wasn't well versed in local landmarks, so I emailed him for more detailed directions, though I guessed he spotted them near the Chess Pavilion area at North Avenue. I decided I couldn't wait for his reply to my email. I read his post at 245pm, and immediately got in the car to see if I could find these birds. The Harlequin male is a bird not to be missed, and this is not a diving duck that makes it to our lakefront with any regularity. Even a rookie like me could figure that out from my Sibley's map.

This would be a good bird to chase down a look.

The weather was terribly windy and overcast. When I got to North Avenue Beach I could see that the water was wild and I doubted I would see any
Harlequin Ducks in this rough water. I hustled down to the beach area near the Chess Pavilion, accidentally annoyed two Canada Geese on the way, and immediately located two female Harlequin Duck females (photo Jeff Skrentny) bobbing up in down in the three and four foot waves regularly crashing over the breakwater. Just watching them made me dizzy. I thought that at any moment the waves would wash them up on the beach, as they remained only 2-5 feet from the breakwater edge.

They were cautious, but not what I would call skittish. As long as I stayed back 30-50 feet, they were happy to go about diving one right after the other, as they had no doubt been doing before I arrived. But where was the male? No where to be found, and he was the real visual treat. That is the drake everyone wants to see. Couldn't find him anywhere. I looked up and down the beach, nothing. I had a 4pm conference call I had to get back for, and I couldn't find him. Still, I had a new bird, life bird #62, Chicago bird #25. It was a good chase and netted me:

#62 HARLEQUIN DUCK females


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