Sunday, 8 July 2012

the "links" effect

A trip to Aberdeen in search of Black Scoter.

Brendan came to pick me up at about ten to nine on friday evening. He had collected our hire car, a two litre diesel vauxhall astra ealier in the day. However, he had fogotten his mobile phone so he went back home to pick it up. This gave me time to bolt down my dinner which was a nice beef wellington courtesy of my better half. Brendan returned and we made the short journey from my house to Kings Langley Station where Dave was waiting. We set the sat-nav for Murcgar Golf Course clubhouse and off we went. We arrived about eight hours later around ten past five a.m. The journey was quite good no rain and not too many roadworks. On arrival the weather was windy and overcast. After unloading our optics from the car and putting on our waterproofs we made our way across the golf course to the dunes. Incidently whislt I was putting my waterproof trousers on I stumbled and had to put my hand on the ground to stop myself from completely falling over. Brendan says this counts as a "fall" as I was not in complete control. I don't think it does but conceded as I didn't think it was worth falling out over (no pun intended). We spent the next few hours viewing a large flock of mainly Common Scoter. The flock did contain a fair few Velvet Scoter. We also connected with a couple of Surf Scoter (new bird for me.) Dave connected with the Black Scoter but neither Brendan or myself could get onto the bird. Both Brendan and myself did see a Scoter that looked a likely candidate for the Black Scoter but our description did not quite match Dave's and Dave was not able to connect with our bird. Dave's description matched the Black Scoter that had been seen but both Brendan and myself noted a more yellow bill with no obvious black and some paleness at the base of the bill.Visibility was not good and got worse as the day wore on. Scoters were joining and leaving the main flock quite regularly mainly flying in or out to towards Black Dog. We decided to drive to Black Dog and walk the dunes back towards the golf course. On our walk from the car to the dunes we noted several Northern Marsh Orchids. Then shortly after we had started walking the dunes back towards the golf course the higlight of our trip occured! No not the Black Scoter or a sighting of some other "mega" raritly but a spectacular fall by Brendan. Not even top bootfaller Didier Drogba who actually falls over for a living could have done better. Anyway back to the birding. On our walk along the dunes we noted a massive flock of Eider hauled up on the beach. A quick inspection did not reveal any King Eider. We saw some smaller flocks of Scoter, one of which held a nice drake Surf Scoter, also noted were ten Red-breated Mergansers and several Red-throated divers. After a bit of a hike we caught up with the main flock of Scoters that had drifted a fair bit north. We started going through the flock again but our attention's were distracted by two Great Skua's that flew north fairly close in. By now the weather was quite bad the wind had picked up a fair bit and drizzle had turned to rain. After a while Brendan and myself picked out the Scoter we had seen previously but again we could not get Dave onto it. We stayed scanning throught the flock noting Common, Velvet and Surf Scoter but no positive i.d. for a Black Scoter. We had now been looking for this elusive sea duck for approaching nine hours and our backs, legs........ were aching and our optics were steamed up and soaking wet making for poor viewing. So after a quick team meeting we decided to pack up our optics, get out of our wet clothes and head back home. Some traffic in Aberdeen city centre but the rest of the journey was pretty good and we were able to drop Dave off at Kings Langley about ten to eleven. After a lot of discussion and viewing many different pictures of various types of Scoter both Brendan and myself are not convinced we saw the Black Scoter. In an edition of "Birding World" there is a photo of an abherrant Common Scoter that looks remarkably like the bird we saw. Coincidently an aberrant Common Scoter has been reported from this location. Update; Unusual Scoter with all yellow billl reorted again on sunday. Also after viewing photo's and video clips of Black Scoter including the bird at Murcgar on various websites we still cannot make a strong enough case for the bird we saw. Despite not ticking "Black Scoter" I still enjoyed the trip and it is already on the calendar for next year. After all it's not every day you get a chance to drink nine cans (3 for a £1) of Tesco's berry flavoured energy drink.

A breakdown of the cost
Car hire from Enterprise, Watford; £80.
Diesel; £150
Total £230 divided by 3 just under £77 each. Aditional costs Tesco Energy drinks/Red Bull, sandwiches, crisps and chocolate about £10.

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