Friday, 15 April 2011

Black Scoter

There are many reasons why I love Northumberland. I'm only going to bore you with one of them. Whilst the rest of the country regularly descends into chaos at twitches, here they are nothing but well behaved and orderly.
Sometimes I just want to add a message to to birds like this, you know how they go "please stick only to the beach; do not queue in front of the castle and please don't paddle in the surf"


So at 06:50 this morning, that was it, the twitch plus me and two others out of camera shot, oh and 150 Common Scoter and a rather nice drake Black Scoter.

 That could be the Black Scoter on the left but using a 400mm only who knows.

We spent about an hour just breathing in the morning atmosphere, decent views on a glass calm sea; the drake put on a great display, occasionally displaying to female Common Scoters, allowing a good comparison between it and the drake Commons present. Apart from the obvious bill differences, it certainly had a thicker neck (cited by Martin Garner in Frontiers in Birding). One of the notable behavioural differences though was the amount of vocalisation, we couldn't actually hear any sounds but it continually opened it's bill wide apparently calling, something that was almost exclusive to it as I only once or twice noted a Common Scoter behaving this way. I spent a little time trying to compare the dive jizz but couldn't spot any significant difference to Common Scoter here. A single Long-tailed Duck was the only other duck of note.
We wandered up above Stag Rocks and scoped north, a few hirundines, 3 Red-throated Divers and lots of Harbour Porpoise. I would estimate about 15-20 individuals spread across a fairly wide area.
A House Martin flew north as we walked back to sort some breakfast out. 

A little later after a brief stop at Hoppen Kiln we checked out Budle Bay, 62 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the over-wintering Greenshank were the highlights. The LBB Gulls seemed to include a number of intermedius individuals, in fact they may have been more numerous than graellsii, or did we have one exceptional pale graellsii amongst a whole bunch of others?

After meeting Serenity skipper Andrew Douglas earlier in the morning, we decided to head out with him over to Inner Farne and had a splendid trip across calm seas, a good look at the usual seabird suspects. Star bird was a Merlin sat on a crane on Longstone, probably an immature we decided judging by the patchy mantle.

The great thing about birding from Serenity's twin hulled catamaran is the ability to get in close in shallower water allowing us a bit of a closer look at a rather unexpected late visitor to the islands.


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