They Mark the Way

While shopping in Port Townsend I mentioned to a shop owner that I came to Port Townsend to bird, and she told me that there was a pond in Fort Worden where she regularly saw Wood Ducks. Since we had a couple of hours to waste, we decided to try to find the pond that she described. We never did find the pond, but I was hooked on the hike when I found three “totems” at the beginning of the hike, a wonderful blending of art and nature that reminded me of the reasons Leslie and I return here so often.

Although a few of the items are “works of art” most of the items that adorn the three poles that keep cars from driving on the trail were obviously found on the walk, which makes them seem even more magical to me.

I imagine they must have been assembled by one of the many artists who live here,


though their “childlike” quality


almost makes me believe that fairies assembled them


and refresh them during the early morning hours.


Despite being thrilled by my first ever closeup sighting of a Long-Tailed Duck, I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that the only Harlequin Ducks I had seen were far offshore, too far to even try to get a shot. So I decided to try another spot. I got distracted when I saw a pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers, but they bolted as soon as I pointed a lens at them. Luckily, I spotted this pair of Harlequins slowly paddling my way. Although they kept a safe distance away, they paddled right in front of me. I could almost imagine that they recognized me from my previous visits they were so indifferent.


In fact, the male seemed more curious than afraid, paddling directly toward me


before finally turning and edging away, all the time managing to keep an eye on me.


Despite some recent snow in the mountains, I doubt these Harlequins will be here on our next visit. Most of these birds will probably have moved up to the Olympics to breed, where they will be nearly impossible to find.

Such beauty is always ephemeral, as it should be.

Long-Tailed Duck

When unusually warm and sunny temperatures were predicted last Saturday, Leslie and I decided to spend the day at Port Townsend and Ft Flagler. It seemed to me that with our warm Spring it might be my last chance to see the Harlequin Ducks until next Winter. As it turned out, it was a very popular day at Flagler and, as a result, the Harlequins were a long ways offshore. With few birds in sight, we turned our attention to figuring out what all those people were doing at the end of the peninsula. A few were digging clams, but very few had shovels so it was clear they were doing something else. I finally decided they must be harvesting seaweed, and that suspicion was confirmed by an elderly gentleman who was sitting in a chair watching the activity. He said that his wife was collecting Spring seaweed which they used to make soup and, surprisingly, a chip that “tasted better than potato chips.”

Leslie was more fascinated by the conversation than I was, or more polite, so I started looking to see if there were any shorebirds nearby. There weren’t, but while looking I spotted this strange duck mere few feet away. I didn’t recognize it at first because I’d only seen one at a considerable distance before while crossing the sound on the ferry.

At first I thought it must be sick because it had chosen such a strange place to rest and because it didn’t leave despite hundreds of nearby people. Apparently, though, the Long-Tailed Duck was just sleeping,


and quite soundly at that, because I spent nearly five minutes trying to find the perfect angle to get a shot.

I even went over and got Leslie to look at it before it got up and strolled sleepily toward the water.


It casually waded into the water and floated nearby, giving me plenty of time to pick the perfect angle for a profile of it floating.


Suddenly, for no obvious reason, it started running across the water


and took flight, quickly turning away from shore,


moving so fast that I decided that it must not have been hurt it all, that it had simply been resting in an unexpected location.

Ruth Sullivan, who started me birding, use to say, “One good bird, that’s all we need.” That Long-Tailed Duck certainly made my day!