Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Surf Scoter; 1st record for Cheshire and Wirral.

Weather; Fine, sunny day with almost no wind.

Cheshire and Wirral's long awaited first Surf Scoter, an adult drake, was discovered early this morning among the many thousands of Common Scoter off Hoylake by lighthouse regulars Allan Conlin and Kenny Dummigan, a well deserved reward for many weeks of searching for this species here.

This is one of the very few occasions when a county first has been found more by design than by luck. Local birders had long believed that 'Surfies' were present among the vast flocks of Common Scoters barely visible far out off Hoylake but the main problem was that these flocks were just too far out to see clearly enough. Allan, however, had recently figured out how to get close enough to these flocks to enable them to be sifted through. This involved a long hike across the sand at the lowest time of the tide to the distant tide line. It is essential for there to be no or extremely little wind to enable the birds to be visible on the still sea. Early visits are best to avoid the heat haze which builds up later in the day. A sunny day also helps as it reflects the all important white bits of both drake Surf Scoters and flying Velvet Scoters.

Over recent weeks Allan's pioneering tactics have paid off with record breaking counts of Common Scoters, far in excess of previous counts, and regular sightings of rarer sea duck such as Long-tailed Duck, Eider and Velvet Scoter. 

Perfect wind, tide, light and sun conditions were in place early this morning which greatly assisted the discovery of the Surf Scoter. Other species seen here at the time included at least 5 Velvet Scoters, 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Great-crested Grebes and over 10,000 Common Scoters.

A fantastic find and many congratulations to Allan and Ken.   

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