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!