Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Surfin' USA

A dark, drizzly December weekday here in Filey usually means a blissfully near-deserted bay and Brigg, happily the case yesterday morning when I set out into the murk for a wander to the end and back. While avian expectations are naturally quite low key at this time of year (unless severe weather intervenes), the bay in winter can occasionally rock you back on your heels with a glittering prize, and for some reason - which I don't plan on over-thinking - December always provides for me. Stumbling upon a Brunnich's Guillemot in the same month two years ago and a White-billed Diver in December last year was pretty much as good as it gets, but surely the run was due to end...

Well, apparently not. Typically unremarkable circumstances, difficult viewing conditions (dark, misty, a moderate swell), and very few birds in the bay hardly painted a promising picture, and a few Red-throated Divers, auks, Great Crested Grebes, and a Great Northern Diver briefly in the bay corner were all pretty standard fare. Ducks, meanwhile - flocks of which can offer hope of a more unusual member within their ranks - were somewhat feebly represented by a single Goldeneye patrolling the southern flank of the Brigg, which soon thought better of it, flew out of the bay and headed north.

Walking back along the shoreline towards the bay corner and scanning the choppy surface again on auto-pilot, a lone, dark scoter-shaped seaduck briefly materialised a few hundred metres out (see the initial view above, through a 400ml lens - it didn't get any closer). Hmmm. Giving fairly lousy views and spending much of its time underwater, it nevertheless looked instantly promising; even with effectively just a (fairly distant) silhouette to go on, the alarm bells began to ring. But, echoing similar situations over the last few years (not least the aforementioned Arctic auk), it seemed faintly ridiculous for the one bird present, appearing out of nowhere as if by magic, to just so happen to be a much coveted rare quarry.

Clearly it's time to stop thinking that way, because - after a few more minutes joining up the dots - that's exactly what had happened once again. The only dark splodge in the whole of the northern bay was indeed a fine immature male Surf Scoter, born in North America just a few months ago, and yet another wonderful reward provided by the murky waters just a few minutes from my front door.

(Above - Great Northern & Red-throated Divers, also photographed in the murk at 4000 ISO....)