Friday, 17 June 2011

American White-winged Scoter, 12/6

Until this year, White-winged Scoter was one of those highly-anticipated birds to make an appearance on British & Irish shores, but had not yet done. In March, I was fortunate to play a part in the discovery of the first Asian White-winged (Stejneger's) Scoter for Ireland, and the wait was finally over. I don't suppose anyone was really expecting the North American counterpart (ssp. deglandi) to turn up so soon afterwards. But that's exactly what happened at scoter hotspot Blackdog, in Aberdeenshire, on Saturday.

John Pegden now lives very close to me in Lincs (where I happened to be over the weekend), so we were soon teaming up and drafting in the exiled Mick Frosdick and Steve Webb. We were up at Blackdog (or rather off Murcar links golf course just to the south) by early morning, but the weather was very poor and prohibited an early morning search. As the morning progressed, the weather improved and it was now possible to look at the scoters. Swell was proving a problem, with most birds spending more time obscured by waves than being visible. The White-winged Scoter was eventually picked up and proved very elusive over the next few hours, although did show pretty well at times. Was surprised at how much contrast there was between the brown flanks and the rest of the body, and the head and bill shape were also pretty striking.

There were also three drake Surf Scoters, two of which are in the photograph below:

A few other bits were also seen, including a Black-throated Diver, a few Manx Shearwaters and Arctic Skuas, and an Osprey. We moved round to the Ythan Estuary where the King Eider was asleep, then left and got back to Lincolnshire by 21:15 - a successful day!

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