Ranger Macy reports that the pair of Harlequin ducks mentioned last month have apparently taken up temporary residence in the Park as they have been noted along the Nisqually River on several occasions. It is likely that they are nesting in the vicinity.
Such a beautiful and rare visitor deserves a fuller description than the brief mention we were able to accord him last month.
The male Harlequin is one of our most conspicuously marked ducks and is second only to the Wood Duck in beauty of plumage.
The birds are about the size of the common Teal. The head is unusually large with a dark greenish ground color which sets off to good advantage the contrasty white markings of the face and the reddish medial head stripe. There are three prominent white patches on either side. The largest, an inverted comma, is just before the eye. The ear patch is about the size of a nickel and almost as round. Behind the ear is another long white strip which extends to the neck and continues down the back for a distance. A white collar, a cresent-shaped shoulder patch and a round tail patch complete the white markings. The legs and feet are black. They are birds of the high mountains or the far north. Dr. Charles Townsend tells me that he has never seen them in the East south of Labrador. Occasionally they are found inhabiting high altitude streams from the Sierras north along the coast ranges but it is always a red letter day for the bird lover when a pair is found. They are powerful swimmers, even for ducks. I have seen them cross twenty foot stretches of water so swift that I believe it would sweep a man off his feet without being carried downstream more than five feet. Their favorite feeding ground is the deep swirling trout pools at the foot of rapids. They seem to revel in fast cold water and often ride the cataracts down stream bobbing about like corks in a mill race, then fly back up stream and "chute the chutes" again, apparently just for the sport it affords.
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