High Seas and Harlequins

Two feet of snow still stand on my deck and long icicles hang from the roof’s edge. They are rippled from the freeze and thaw cycle and they drip onto my deck one droplet at a time. There is plenty of winter wildlife, even after a snow storm.

They call them Winter Birds. And this year, there are “irruptives”, in scientific lingo, birds that only appear in New England when there is a shortage of food up north in Canada. These irruptives include the Common Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak and Red-breasted Nuthatch. The Pine Grosbeaks first appeared in my neighborhood in December. These birds are only here in winter.

Pine Grosbeaks love Crabapples and other fruiting trees. They are almost always seen with fruit smashed onto their beaks. Did they forget their napkins?

As the snow finally melts and the temperatures rise to a balmy 40 degrees, I sense that spring is almost here. As we await the Covid-19 vaccines and the renewed sense of freedom in our lives, we seek refuge in nature. And instead of globe trotting like I was doing before the pandemic hit, I find adventure in local bird sanctuaries. Once again I hit the seacoast to look for birds and I find a very large flock of Snow Buntings in Hampton, New Hampshire.

The flock seems to be growing. There were around 400-500 in January of 2021.

Harlequin Ducks spend their summers nesting in Canada along both the East and West Coasts of the United States. In winter, they move south along each coast down as far as North Carolina on the East Coast and California on the West Coast. They like to hang out in small groups near rocky shorelines. I found these ducks at Halibut Point State Park on the north shore of Massachusetts. The first time I saw them last month, it was so frigid that I nearly got frostbite on my face.

Males are on the left and females/immature ducks are on the right.

I don’t know if you can see the moss on these rocks, but as I was attempting to get closer to the Harlequin, I missed some of it and fell into the crevice of a boulder. My first thought was, “Is my camera okay?” Luckily there was a really nice couple nearby and they helped extract me from the boulders, which were much bigger than the ones seen here. 🙂 I learned my lesson to stay away from the wet moss!

Look at the coloring on the backs of these males. Isn’t it beautiful?

Large waves constantly wash over them. Birds bobbing in and out of the waves. Apparently, they like it.

Diving for Dinner. They dive as deep as 70 feet and feed on small fish, mollusks and crustaceans.

The Harlequins stay under for up to a minute, and then they pop right up again … literally.

I watch while the Harlequins chase one another, fish for crustaceans and fly away from perceived predators.

There are also a few White-winged Scoters. Now these are really cool looking ocean ducks. I also love Surf Scoters, although I have not yet gotten a great shot of a Surf Scoter …. but it is definitely on my list.

White-winged Scoter.

Black Scoters have the strangest yellow bills. Their bodies are so dark that I have to adjust the light in this image after I get it onto my computer.

Here, the Black Scoter is about to take a dive.

When a boat comes by, the Harlequins decide to fly away.

After the Harlequins leave, I decide to walk out onto a long pier made out of huge cut rocks. I then spot these sandpipers on the smaller rocks below.

To get closer, I have to jump from huge boulder to huge boulder, avoiding the ice and snow and yes, moss. I then use my Tamron 150-600 mm lens to capture this Purple Sandpiper on a rock.

The evening closes in and I catch a White-winged Scoter coming in for a landing…

Good evening, Halibut Point.

Back home, the large icicles glisten while photographed through the screened window.

The screen forms circles that dance in the light.

I decide to put Suet feeders up on my back deck. It is wonderful to host these visitors outside of my home office. A Red-bellied Woodpecker is the first to visit. Is that a tongue?

He seems to prefer the peanut butter suet. Oops, dropped something.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch also likes the peanut butter!

The Bluebirds, however, prefer the hot pepper seed. Their color this time of year is stunning.

Thank you for coming along with me on my winter adventure. Spring is right around the corner, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Stay safe, my friends. Once this pandemic is all over, we will PARTY!!

7 thoughts on “High Seas and Harlequins

  1. I cannot delete your email! It is so beautiful, the words and the pictures! They are really extraordinary! You are a gifted artist in your photography and your writing! Keep doing what you’re doing.
    Thank yoiu
    Marge Generazzo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved your photos and article. Harlequin Ducks are my favorite, and I’m very glad you didn’t injure yourself for their sake!


  3. Each time you post pictures and commentary, I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing – awesome pictures, interesting information in your commentary!! Thing I like about this art for you is that it’s art that gets you outside and physically doing something. But your paintings are also very interesting and unique! You’re living in a unique and very convenient location, close enough to be able to reach all these different places.

    More daylight is arriving, the sun will be out soon I hope, and there will be more life to enjoy.


    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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