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Biggest Twitch
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Surf is up at Pensarn beach

After a rather frustrating, but eventually succesful, search for Surf Scoters on Monday we tried again today. Surf Scoters are rare visitors from North America and when they are seen they are often amongst flocks of Common Scoter. Just twelve miles east of our home, in Llandudno, is Pensarn beach and here there are masses of Common Scoter offshore.

Arriving at the beach car park the sea was calm, always a good sign if you intend looking for seaduck. Leica telescope set up and the scanning began. No shortage of scoter, far from it, thousands and thousands were massed offshore. The 50x magnification on the telescope and the exceptional light gethering allowed very good views of the ducks.

When faced with such a huge task, finding a rare duck amongst masses of common ones, you experience a roller coaster of emotions, excitment when you first see all those birds, then frustration as you realise the size of the task, a wave of defeat when you can't find the bird! Then hope springs again when the sun brakes through and suddenly the views improve and you again believe that you can find a Surf Scoter.

After a good deal of hard looking, trying to look at individual birds rather than seeing a mass of birds, a flash of white amongst the black of the Common Scoter throng. Did I imagine it? No, there it is again, white on a scoters head! Then the penny dropped it was a drake Surf Scoter head-on! The white was the forehead white patch above the bill. The bird soon swung into profile and there was a stunning drake Surf Scoter with swollen orange, red, white and black bill, huge white patch on the back of the neck and that white forehead! Wow!

Surf Scoter

The views through the scope, on maximum zoom - that is fifty times - was brilliant, really showing what a stunning bird an adult drake Surf Scoter really is. Suddenly the Surf flew a short distance, as it came into land the red legs flashed in the sunshine, not very often you get to see the colour of a Surf Scoters legs!

The drake steamed through the masses of Common Scoter and seemed to be on a mission. Amazingly the drake joined two more adult drake Surf Scoters, what a sight! All three of the yanks then began to display, they stretched their necks up and shook their heads from side to side with tail raised at ninety degrees from the water, fantastic to watch. As they displayed they chased each other and occasionally Common Scoters, they looked really pumped up and aggressive. Easily the best ever views of Surf Scoter in the UK and a real thrill to see these amazing birds so well.

Great Orme windfarm dawn

A huge wind farm is being built off the North Wales coast and work is going on off Pensarn. The scoter flocks are much closer in than in previous years, is this a result of the huge amount of work being done to build the wind farm? It may well be as a huge amount of disturbance is going on while thousands of turbine towers are being constructed. What will happen when the work is complete? Will the scoter move further off shore or will they stay closer in away from the turbines? If they do stay close in will there be enough food to sustain the masses of birds in this narrow strip of sea? A lot of question but no answers yet!

We hope the scoter flocks will remain and flourish off the coast of North Wales it is a true spectacle to see so many birds offshore and a thrill to pick out the odd American visitor amongst them!


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