Monday, November 27, 2006


You know, as a birder, and as a person, I try not to play favorites. It’s a fun exercise, no doubt, and the kind of top-ten list making that starred in the novel High Fidelity can easily consume hours of idle thought. But really, I find that these favorites are in a constant state of flux, changing by the year, week, day, or minute. Often, my favorite is whatever is staring me in the face at that particular moment, which is as it should be. A few things certainly stay near the top of the list for long periods of time. For me, musicians such as the Beatles and Mozart, movies like Jaws and ET, books like The Lord of the Rings and Dune will always be near the top.

Birds are different. I have so many favorites. There are birds such as the Black-capped Chickadee, which reliably entertain me with their familiar chatter and antics at any time of year. I see them almost every time I venture outside, and they are familiar friends. There are birds like the Wood Thrush, which send a thrill through my ears and my soul when I hear one for the first time every Spring, singing with a voice at one with the heart of spring and the woods, but also speaking from just on the other side of some parallel world beyond my reach. That was a little over the top, wasn't it? And of course there are the memories or anticipations of rare thrills I get from such birds as razorbills or phalaropes.

But all of these are forgotten when the Harlequin Duck pops into view. This bird just happens to be the most entertaining little guy that I know of. Luckily, it is reliably seen here off the coast of Massachusetts from November through March. This is a tiny duck with an outlandish pattern of white dots and crescents and splashes of rufous against its compact, dark body. It spends its time on rocky shores, playing about the crashing surf just inches from the seaweed and barnacle encrusted rocks, diving for mollusks and crustaceans, poking its head in the water, and skittering about the surface, playing with others.

Here’s to the Harlequin, at least until the next bird flies by.
Pictures were taken at Halibut State Park on Cape Ann, 11-26-06.

1 comment:

mom/grandma said...

I do enjoy your writings on this site. And what beautiful pictures of the birds. Love you, mom