Harlequin Quest

When I read three weather reports Monday that said Tuesday would be sunny in the Port Townsend area and Leslie was going out Tuesday evening, I decided it would be the ideal day for my annual pilgrimage to visit the Harlequin ducks at Fort Flagler.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t turn out as predicted. In fact, a half hour from home I ran into a squall that almost made me turn back, but I decided I wasn’t going to waste half of a tank of gas. As it turned out, I was glad I didn’t turn back, though the weather was variable as shown by the layers of clouds in this shot of Mt. Baker across the bay.

Mt. Baker from Fort Flagler

It was dark and cloudy when I arrived, and the tide was high. I did find a pair of Harlequin ducks, but they were a considerable distance off shore, and they looked like dull blobs in the first pictures I took.

Luckily, the two miles I hiked down the beach weren’t wasted since I found a small flock of Brandt swimming close to shore,

Brandt Geese

and their black and white colors didn’t suffer from a lack of sun. In fact the gray skies probably made it possible to capture both their black and white colors, something difficult to do in intense sunlight


I was also able to get a decent shot of this Pelagic Cormorant on the old pier posts.

Pelagic Cormorant

I finally decided to drive to the other end of the park and hope for better light when I returned, something I’ve never done before since I also like to touch base in Port Townsend after I’ve driven this far.

I’m glad I did, though, because the shots were better later, the colors much brighter,

male Harlequin Duck

later in the day, and there were several different groups of Harlequins, like this pair.

Pair of Harlequin Ducks

though I never could get shots of them sitting off shore because the tide was too high.

I’ve never been able to recreate the excitement of the first time I saw a flock of them sitting a few feet from me, totally oblivious to my presence, but perhaps that’s to be expected. They still have the power to draw me a hundred miles from home every year.