At Farmington, Ct.
About a month ago, a harlequin duck appeared in the Farmington River on a stretch of water that parallels Garden Street. It is a most unusual place for the harlequin, winter or summer, and the question now is, how long will it remain?
Harlequin ducks spend summers in the far north, often well above the Arctic Circle, and prefer rushing, broken water. I’ve seen them in whitewater on the North Klondike River in the Yukon Territory. In winter, they prefer rocky coastlines, where they can be seen bobbing among the rocks even as the surf crashes around them. They are, it appears, very hardy creatures. In southern New England, one fairly reliable place to spot a harlequin is Sachuest Point in Rhode Island, where a small flock can often be seen in winter.
A sighting in Connecticut is highly unusual, and especially on an inland river in winter. Hundreds of birders have come by to get a look at this single, male harlequin, which is easily identified. Male harlequins have a most distinctive pattern, with lyrical swooshes of white plumage and white dots.
Mergansers, mallard ducks, and Canada geese are abundant along the Farmington River in winter, and this solitary harlequin sometimes is among them. We are left to wonder where in the north it spent the summer, and where it was headed before it decided to stop on the Farmington. Did it somehow get separated from a migrating flock of harlequins? One assumes so, and the harlequin of Farmington most likely is one of nature’s little dramas.