Harlequins, and More Harlequins

I went to Ft. Flagler Wednesday to find Harlequin ducks because it’s the one place I can consistently count on seeing them, though never as many as were there Wednesday. I followed this pair of ducks down the beach until they finally climbed up on a rock, the same place I first saw one years before:

pair of Harlequin Ducks

Soon another male and female showed up, though at different times.

The male got off the rock, but the original female didn’t seem to want to share it with the new female and they jostled for position.

female Harlequin Ducks

While this was going on the two males

Harlequin Ducks

began what seemed like a synchronized swimming demonstration,

male Harlequins

as they joined up, swung wide,

male Harlequins

made a large circle,

male Harlequins

and circled back to the rock exactly where they had begun,

male Harlequins

looking quite proud of themselves, or so I imagined.

By the time they returned the second female had lost interest and had moved down the beach onto another large rock. I’m still befuddled by the entire incident. I can’t figure out why the two male Harlequins acted the way they did. Was it some kind of mating ritual? If so, why did the two males act together? And why did the male leave the female he was with to court another female?

I couldn’t find anything on the internet to suggest answers to my question. But I did discover that Harlequin are one of the most agile ducks and unlike most ducks spend winters perched on rocky cliffs at the edge of the ocean, occasionally even being battered to death against the rocks by winter storms. At leas that explains how easily they climbed up on the rocks.