Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fancy Ducks on the Fox

Yesterday afternoon, Kane County again yielded a great bird to snag at the beginning of the year. And yet again, it was quite reluctant in doing so. Texts from two friends and a Facebook message from another alerted me to a Harlequin Duck in Elgin, so I headed that direction after getting home from my retreat.

I figured that there wouldn't be too much open water, and that the bird should be pretty readily found. What I got instead was 40 minutes of character development. I should have known better. I should have thought back to last February when Scott Cohrs, Andrew Aldrich, and I spent well over an hour looking for an elusive White-winged Scoter just a few miles south of where I was currently standing. It was a true wild duck chase. They both got quick glances at it, but I missed it. And then, well after sundown, right as we were about to take off, the scoter popped up in the water right at our feet. Crazy.

Yesterday was quite similar. I parked right at the Elgin Dam, where the Harlequin was initially reported. After scanning for a bit and coming up empty, I decided to head south along to river. I ran into a couple birders who had not seen it recently, but I figured it was still there. Then, after 30 minutes of searching the river, delicately maneuvering the icy paths, and picking through many goldeneyes and mergansers, I still came up empty. The only thing of note to that point had been a nice male Red-breasted Merganser (another point of similarity with last year's scoter quest). Good Kane County year bird.

Red-breasted Merganser
Elgin Dam, Kane Co, IL
January 12, 2014

It was getting darker, and I didn't want to leave my endlessly patient wife waiting any longer, so I started heading back to the car. I glanced back over at the dam and - wait, a small dark duck. I quickly put my binoculars up and was quite relieved that it was the Harlequin! It was too dark for a decent pic, so here's the best I could do:

Harlequin Duck
Elgin Dam, Kane Co, IL
January 12, 2014

I doubt it's the last Harlequin I see in Illinois this year, but it's definitely a nice bird to get out of the way this early. And, to get it for an inland county is truly exciting! Kane County lifer #175.

ABA: 103

Illinois: 67

Will, IL: 53
Kane, IL: 37