“I want to see as many different types of ducks as we can,” Age said. She’s not a birder, but the game of it all suddenly captivated her this weekend. Like most people, she equated ducks with mallards, but I was on Vancouver Island, and I had my binoculars and frequent access to the coast, and she had the chance to see just how different and glorious ducks can be.

I spotted two of my favourite ducks on our first morning walking the dog at Neck Point in Nanaimo — buffleheads (my spirit bird, squat, Canadian, messy-haired) and the beautiful harlequins, which I’ve only seen once before. I couldn’t get a good shot of the Buffleheads, but I got to wave at them in a few different places, and communed with them quietly while running. This morning, we went for a walk at Neck Point before the airport, there was a feast of Harlequins, the most beautiful and elegant ducks of all, courting, three or four males chasing one female, scooting and ducking.


I could have watched them all day.

rev harl

Over the weekend, we also saw red-headed duck, american widgeon, and red-breasted merganser in several places, so distinct with their tufty heads, even from far away.


We also saw surf scoter, american oystercatcher, wood duck, an unexpected pigeon guillemot (which I was proud of myself for identifying, thinking of guillemots as North Atlantic creatures), and many common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, so lovely, tucked into coves around Salt Spring Island, Neck Point and Horseshoe Bay on the mainland.


I also happened to look up and see a small flock of tundra swans on migration, which felt like a gift, and another eye-opener for A.

tundra swans

We had at least seven soaring bald eagles as well over the weekend, and a single, lucky sandhill crane spotted en route to the airport.

There were passerines, including the ubiquitous robins, but mostly I was looking at the sea. I’m most myself when looking at the sea. Still hooked to BC in my soul.


3 thoughts on “Harlequins

  1. I forgot the common merganser as well. (Though just to be clear, oystercatchers and guillemots and swans aren’t ducks ;-)). Loretta, there are something like 45 species of duck in North America alone!

  2. We watched the Nature episode on ducks (Called “DUCKumentary”) and it was awesome. 🙂 Learned much about the variety of ducks in N.A.

    Amazing job, though, spotting all these different variants. 🙂

    Your spirit bird is “squat”? For the record, you are not “squat”. FYI.

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