Harlequin Duck Tour
It was snowing and windy. White caps broke around the lobster boats in Stonington. Steve, Taylor and I were invited by Tammy and Dennis to go on the Harlequin Duck Tour with their birding group. Previous plans for the day fell through and when I accepted the invitation, I thought this plan would, too. On a boat out to see in the snow with the wind and the waves and…were we crazy? I didn’t start to get excited about the trip until the day before when I called to make sure the trip would be cancelled – and it wasn’t. Well then. Let’s go for a ride, board a mail ferry, and find a duck we’d never seen. We got up early, dressed for the weather, and met at the boat.
Harlequin ducks aren’t rare but they aren’t easy to see. They like the rough surf on Maine’s coast in winter, so rough they break bones, heal remarkably fast and then break more. Harlequin ducks dive for food close to and on the bottom of the ocean. They eat fish, insects and marine invertebrates. Their nickname, sea mouse, comes from their squeaks. They don’t quack like most ducks. Interesting little birds! Their hardiness and ability to ride the surf is impressive.
We went to the south side of Isle au Haut and rode ten foot seas to see the birds. It was too rough to get close enough to the ducks for good photos but we were able to see them. Harlequin ducks and Black-backed gulls were firsts for me. We also saw Common Eiders, Great Cormorants, common loons, other common ducks, and seals. If you get a chance to go on the Harlequin Duck Tour, go! It was worth the long drive even with the wild weather.