Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Double Duck Delight - 16.2.15

Harlequin Duck
Black Scoter
Back on the 4th of January the mega alert went off on my pager with news of a very rare duck in Aberdeen. All it had to do is stick around for 6 weeks until I had a chance to get up to see it!! Amazingly it played ball and was still present on the 15th Feb. With this news myself and Steve Blake decided we were both mad enough to head up there in the hopes of seeing it! We left at 9pm and arrived on site at just gone 6am in the pouring rain. We both had a bit of sleep in the car before waking again about 7.30am. As it was a bit brighter and the rain had eased we got ready and headed down to the River Don at the end of Papermill Drive at the western edge of Seaton Park. The first bird I got onto was a female Goosander but that flew as soon as it saw us. I started scanning with my bins and within 15 seconds BINGO! I turned to Steve and said its down there. There some 25 feet away busily diving for food was our first ever HARLEQUIN DUCK! When it had been found it was thought to be a female due to its brown appearance but once photos had come to light it was shown to be a 1st winter male. Over the last 6 weeks it had started its transformation into one of the worlds best looking ducks. So clapping eyes on this slightly blue and stripy bird was well worth the wait. We both watched it as it fed before it climbed out onto some flattened reeds and grass. Due to the overcast conditions my photo above doesn't do it justice. A male Goldeneye was seen and then having a final look at the main attraction only my 3rd ever Dipper appeared some 6 feet away. The initial plan was to see this bird and maybe do some birding nearby then stay over and head back the next day. This didn't happen as just 3.5 hours down the coast was another potential mega duck.

3.5 hours later we arrived in Cheswick in Northumberland. We turned off the A1 and down a bumpy track towards the small beach car park. Passing a farm on the way Steve noticed some Tree Sparrows in the roadside hedge. There were about 25 which was a nice surprise. We parked up and walked along the track to the dunes. We stood on top of the highest dune and started scanning the sea. I picked up a few distant Eider and 5 Guillemot. Next was a lone male Common Scoter quickly followed by a Red-Throated Diver and 3 Shag. Steve had mentioned a scoter flock and I eventually got onto it. I then started scanning through it and it was another BINGO moment as there to the left hand end of the 30 or so scoters was my first ever BLACK SCOTER! Its day glow yellow knob on its bill shone like a beacon and after a nervous couple of minutes I got Steve and another birder onto it. This lost American showed well between dives and waves and we enjoyed it for a good 15 minutes before it went to sleep! I had another scan of the sea adding only a few more fly by scoter and a single Guillemot but one last look of the scoter group produced a nice juv/fem Velvet Scoter which rounded off the day brilliantly. We headed home happy that we had seen both target birds and eventually arrived home just gone 8pm. 1050 miles driven in 23 hours was madness but totally worth it!

Looking back over my old records for the last time I had 2 lifers in a day found that it was last March when I added Rock Dove and Golden Eagle (tart ticks I know) on Islay. Before that it was Black and Brunnich's Guillemot in Portland and back in 2011 Slaty-Backed Gull (still waiting) and Oriental Turtle Dove

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