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Some local birding

Friday, the 18th, was one of those glorious days when it was clear, sunny and the sea was like a sheet of glass. A frustrating morning of doing non-birding stuff was ended after lunch and it was out along the coast.

Just a few east of Llandudno lays Old Colwyn and offshore here masses of Common Scoter winter here. With the sea so wonderfully calm and the light so good it looked a perfect chance to look for two Surf Scoters that are wintering amongst the flocks of Commons. A scan across the flat blue vista revealed a staggering number of black ducks stretching across the sea. How many Common Scoter? Who knows but many, many thousands, probably tens of thousands? Now where are the two with white head patches?

Scanning and rescanning the vast flocks of duck it was difficult to concentrate on individual birds, hundreds of scoter were in each eye full of telescope view. Red throated Divers and Red breasted Mergansers made a colour change from black but it was the vast flock that continued to hold attention.

At last something clean white flashed in the dense numbers of scoter, concentrate and wait, white again, but not on the head. A Velvet Scoter flapped its wings and flashed white secondaries, and then two more Velvet Scoter showed themselves by wing flapping. How many more Velvets were out there keeping their wings shut?

Another flash of white near the Velvets but this time on a ducks head not wing, a drake Surf Scoter! But not one, two, a second bird came up along side the first, brilliant! The Surf Scoters were distant but in the perfect conditions they stood out nicely.

Surf Scoters

These colourful American rarities were mobile, pushing rudely through the Common Scoters, rising up and occasionally flying a short distance. The two drakes kept very close company making it easier to pick them out, two white patched heads to look for. Three more birders arrived but it proved tough to point out the Surfs given the mass of birds and lack of “land” marks! Also having a superb Leica telescope helped a lot given the long distance, in our scope the birds stood out pretty well. The Surf Scoters were steaming about through the flocks and that made them hard to keep track of. In our scope, so we offered the birders a look, but the time the swap had taken place, focus adjusted, birds had moved out of shot. Re-find them and try again, eventually they had them but just could not get them in their own scopes, frustrating.

The others moved and on and two more birders arrived and we began again. The two new comers, Andy and Ivan, soon had the Surf Scoters and both picked them up in their own scopes.

With eyes well and truly strained it was time to head for home, well pleased with the Surf Scoter sightings, a tough bird to see.

If you would like to join us for the best in birding email

Trips availible throughout the year to suit you!


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