Posts Tagged ‘Surf Scoter’


Another one of our, “looked forward to” trips, was last Sunday. With Bob K at the wheel nearly a full A Team left Rochdale on a cold spring like morning at 6am heading for World`s End in North Wales. Lots of frost around greeted us in the elevated area and even at the early hour quite a few birders had assembled to witness something very special. It was a Black Grouse lek! Firstly around 5 male birds showing their absolute finery and making lots of bubbling sounds as they went toe to toe with the nearest other male. Then we moved to the main lek in which we estimated around 25 males all having some input to this great spectacle in the bird world! They were later joined by a few females who sat around the edges enjoying the show. You can never tire of watching this unusual activity. Quite a few Raven were flying around and “gronking” sounds were all around at one time. In a small larch copse we saw Crossbill, Siskin & Goldcrest and as the grouse lek ended we had a search for a Great Grey Shrike that was a regular winter visitor to these parts. We stopped along the small road as a few other birders were watching something, it was a very distant Great Grey Shrike. We moved on and found another shrike ourselves about 1/2 mile away, the bird quickly made its exit and was not seen again. We moved into the Conway valley to search for the Hawfinch at Llan Bedr y Cenin, we were not lucky on this occasion but were treated to great views of a few Red Kites that have moved into this beautiful area. With the tide being in, a trip to Morfa Madryn (The Spinnies) was next, but frankly it was a little bit of a let down as nothing new was seen, apart from one of the bringer’s of the spring a singing Chiff Chaff which was very nice. News of Surf & Velvet Scoters near Old Colwyn had us dashing up the coast to try to find them. None of us really knew were we where heading for but we must have found the right spot as there were some other birders present. We asked the question about the Surf Scoters and we got the negative (usual) reply! With a flat sea and the sun behind us we began to search through the ever-moving flock of thousands of Common Scoter. We must have a chance of picking one up of these resplendent American sea ducks. Luckily it was myself that finally found a cracking drake Surf Scoter, we really deserved to find one after many hours of searching in unfavourable conditions didn’t we? It did not end there with up to 6 male Velvet and a further 3 more Surf Scoter being found. A few Fulmar,Brent Geese, Red Throated Divers,Guillemot & Razorbills were also seen, a really excellent haul. A very, almost tame Iceland Gull had been present on the beach at Pensarn for a while now so we called in to see it and take a few pictures, guess what? it had flown off just before we got there! A few Ringed Plovers made up our day in North Wales and the usual traffic problems haunted us on the way home, but it had all been worth it as we all got around 10+ new birds for the year lists. Cracking day out.

Dave O.

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Whilst one of our number was watching the Great Spotted Cuckoo in Pembrokeshire and another doing his conservation thing the 3 remaining members of the A Team (Steve B, myself and Chris B at the wheel) headed for North Wales. Our target was the Black Grouse at the well named World’s End, we left Brooks End at 6am and arrived at our destination by 7-30am. A bit of frost about but not snowbound like last year! Three aptly named Blackcocks were soon seen at the side of the track and about 30 birds in total were seen during our short visit. Its advisable to stay in your car so not scare the birds and you should have reasonable sightings. Raven, Skylark and lots of Meadow Pipits were seen but the Great Grey Shrike was not around and a couple of fly past Siskin made up the sightings. Up to 8 Surf Scoter have been seen each day from Pensarn Beach over the last week or so, must be worth a go then? The wind was fairly strong from the west as we arrived and the tide was in and the light perfect, but if you dont get all 3 at the same time your chances of seeing them are very limited. After about an hour of watching Common Scoter and a few passing Red Throated Divers, we decided to go without any success, the wind was blowing us about that much!. A nice Snow Bunting was seen on the seawall though. We headed off to Aber Ogwen / The Spinnies, were two Chiff-Chaffs were singing away, they gave this delightfull nature reserve a spring like feel. A Water Rail feeding below the bird feeders and a distant Slavonian Grebe and two Greenshank made up the species. A little detour to see some Chough`s followed and after a bit of good bird observation by Steve B two of these captivating birds were seen. Another visit to Llandulas and again Pensarn still drew a blank with the Surf Scoters, mind you they were not reported from any other birders on Sunday. A quick look in at Haughton Green Pool near Warrington did not reveal the hoped for Black necked Grebe’s but lots of people walking their dogs and low water did not help. Home by 5-30pm, with around 8 new birds for the year.

Dave O.


A Hoopoe was found near Rhyl, Wales in November and everyone thought that’s late. So when it or another one was found near a caravan site in Pensarn, Wales in December people were really surprised! Chris B needed to see this species so a morning only trip was planned. We departed a cold, dark and bleak Newhey at 6-30am and reached Pensarn by 8-05am in semi-darkness. A walk along a road to the caravan site where we were joined by a fellow birder from Wigan. As we looked in the distance a man was looking at something on the beach, was it the Hoopoe? We climbed the sea wall and were soon admiring the bird which is normally associated with warmer climes. The local dog walkers were now descending down the beach and the Hoopoe treated us to its wonderful flying colours. It played hide and seek for a while until it settled on the grassy roadside verges and fed happily, if left alone. We checked out the sea and lots of scoters were seen, next stop Station Road, Llandulas. Having spent many fruitless hours searching the vast flocks of scoters for the elusive Surf Scoter’s present, we hit on a plan, wait for the sun to shine on the white neck patch. The sun shone and after about 45mins Chris shouted, “I have got a Surf Scoter”. This marked the end, almost of an era, for Chris who has made this species his quest. A Velvet Scoter was also seen. Our mornings work was done and we got home by 12-30pm.
Dave O.


On what could probably be our last trip of 2012, apart from any major “twitches”, it was decided to visit one of our favourite places, North Wales. Our target bird was, as the title implies, the Surf Scoter, as one of the team has yet to connect with this species. Up to three Surf Scoter’s have been present in the Llandulas area, but, along with 5/6000 (I think) Common Scoter, can proove difficult to pick out! Myself, along with Chris & Steve Brown left a dark and misty Rochdale at 6-30am and as it got lighter the mist cleared and apart from a small rain flurry a nice day was in prospect. We reached a new viewing area above the quarry in Llandulas and were soon joined by other birders looking for the Surf Scoter’s, after an hour we had drawn a blank. Time to try to catch up with another species that has thwarted us this year, Purple Sandpiper. Rhos-on -Sea point has had quite a few Purple Sandpipers in the wintertime in the past, so, as it was high tide it was time to try. Lots of Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Dunlin were sheltering on the rocks upon our arrival and Steve was already taking pictures of them, then we found a single Purple Sandpiper only 4 yards away, it was a really nice bird and it give two of us a new bird for the year!

The 80 + Waxwings in the shopping area of Llandudno was our next port of call,we saw a lot sat in the tall trees in the area but none were very photogenic. We met an “old” twitching friend of ours from Wales, Ian Evans. We all had a good chat, and then after a check of Ian’s pager we learned that the Surf Scoter had been seen again at Llandulas. Off we go again, Chris got to know the way there and as we arrived there was no-one watching anything? A few other birders assembled in the hour we tried to find the bird, but with just a Velvet Scoter for our troubles, it was not located again (Bummer). It appears that you just have to be lucky to drop onto this bird from this watchpoint. At this point I told the tale of watching one just fifty yards from the rocks many year’s ago, sorry lads. Well, at Conway RSPB, a couple of Firecrest’s had been seen in the morning, perhaps we could catch up with one of these little beauties? We firstly tried the carpark and then spent a while near the pond seeing Redpoll, Dunnock, Blue & Great Tits and Goldcrest but no Firecrest. We headed back to the car, apart from Chris, who was answering a call of nature, luckily for us he heard a “crest” then saw the Firecrest. He rounded us up and we enjoyed good views of the bird, along with a few of the RSPB staff who wondered what all the fuss was about. At this point one of the North Wales birders told us that the Surf Scoter had been seen again, (Bummer X2) we thought,”Third time lucky” and of we went again. Guess what even with a few more birders we didn’t manage to see the bird. Ah well. It lives to be seen another day. The traffic on the busy A55 had ground to a halt, just as we decided to leave, due to a vehicle crash, so, we had to join the long line of traffic that was diverted off through Abergele.We managed to reach Burton Point at the bottom of Station Road and had a nice walk back towards Shotton. We managed to see about five Short-eared Owls, one having a go at a Merlin way out on the marsh. One of the owl’s came quite close and was really stunning. The count of Little Egrets going to roost had reached about 30, when we began to recall how a single Little Egret was such a rarity 25 years ago, we much be getting old? It was time for home, but as we reached Two Mills traffic lights, not far from Burton, another crash had occured and slowed our progress. We got back home at 5:30pm and all had enjoyed a good day’s birding, well apart from the Surf Scoter!

Regards,

Dave O.