After missing out on the twitch to Wick in 1991, to see a female Harlequin Duck, when the news broke of two first summer females on the coast near Girvan, Ayrshire, Doreen and myself decided to drive there leaving early morning. We had a good drive arriving around mid-day. No other birders around but we soon located the two Harlequins which were initially swimming close to the shore in a little rocky bay. It was interesting to watch their simultaneous behaviour, diving and re-surfacing at exactly the same time.
At one time, they both came out of the sea and stood on some nearby rocks.
These two Harlequins were found by C.J.Murphy as he was driving past the area on the 13th April, 1996 and they remained faithful to this site until the 27th April, 1996. They were the 13th and 14th individuals recorded in the UK of which 6 had been recorded prior to 1949. The best year was in 1965 when 4 different birds were recorded. Up to 2012, there have been 24 accepted records in the UK and this Spring saw a long staying first winter drake at Balranald RSPB Reserve in North Uist. The previous drake to be recorded in the UK was as long ago as 1987.
Harlequin Ducks breeds on fast flowing streams in Iceland, Greenland, North America and East Siberia with the Icelandic population estimated at around 3,000 pairs, and they winter around nearby coasts often in rough water.
We spent a very enjoyable 2 hours watching and photographing these two very confiding ducks often allowing close approach and not really taking any notice of us. We also recorded 150 Pink-feet nearby.
The follow day, I had another very early morning twitching an American Coot at Stodmarsh, but that's another story.
Two first summer female Harlequin Ducks, Girvan, Ayrshire.