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Harlequin Ducks & Purple Sandpiper

Birders,


Around 12:15 p.m. today I began walking the south pier again, but the sight of a fellow with a loose dog was not a good omen. Despite this, I knew that birds are on the move now and a few hundred yards north of the elbow a Purple Sandpiper was found. That's the second one this late fall/early winter. Then as I approached the end of the pier 150 feet or so to the west were three Harlequin Ducks (two females & one male) in the water. Wow. In the spring we found a maximum of two pairs of HADUs and a maximum of three in the fall gives us at least seven HADUs for 2023 ! On my way south they had moved closer to the pier when I got some rear photos that are seldom seen or photographed. That was too close, and they all flew north and disappeared on the north side of the north pier. My next destination was the offshore breakwater off the pumped storage reservoir, but the wind made it difficult to ID some ducks up against the boulders along the eastern edge -- possibly three more HADUs ? Oh well. Lastly, I thought I might as well check the north pier on my way home and bingo ! All three HADUs were just 200 feet east of the lighthouse on the north side of the pier. I managed a few flight shots as they headed over to the south pier again. Thankfully, it appeared no one else was hiking the piers and a few fishermen were close to shore.


Based on a review of eBird HADU records in 2023 across Michigan, no other county had more than 4 thus far, and these were all in the late winter and early spring (fall records thus far have been of one or two elsewhere). Looks like Mason County is again the Harlequin Duck capital of the state.


Dave


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