The specimen from November 1966, 48 years ago this month, was the last Common Eider ever documented in the state until just this month. On November 10, while I was across the continent in Vancouver, Karl Bardon discovered two Common Eiders at Brighton Beach at the east end of Duluth. And on November 13, while the two were still being seen in Duluth, Bob Myers found another one in the Silver Bay marina.
All week while I was in British Columbia, I was reading posts from people who had seen and photographed the Duluth birds, which were seen from a variety of easily accessible vantage points, often near shore and sometimes even loafing on the rocks at the edge of the water. Russ and I got home on Friday night and we tried to see them the next morning but missed. That happened to be the last day the two were seen together. I’d like to think that the missing one flew off and found its way back to the Atlantic Ocean where it belongs, but it almost certainly ended up dying somewhere.
I tried to see the remaining bird again later in the week, running into a birding acquaintance, Dave Bartkey. We thoroughly checked the shoreline from the main places where it had been seen, arriving less than a half hour after the latest report, but didn’t see it. Fortunately, as some sort of consolation prize, a gorgeous red fox turned up and allowed me to take several photos from my car.
This time the eider was right there, not too far from shore directly in from where I first looked. A couple in the condominiums asked what it was—they’d been puzzling over it all morning. He thought it was a weird duck, but neither of them were familiar with diving ducks and couldn’t understand how a duck could spend so much time under water, so she thought it might be a fish. The lighting was poor, and though the bird wasn’t very far out, it was far enough to make my photographs only marginally good. But a new state bird is a new state bird.