Saturday, 25 May 2013

Duck detours

On the last full day of my recent Scottish holiday I left Cairngorm for the coast. Speyside to Stirling, where I was spending my last night, via Aberdeen is a typical birders detour, and I made good time to Newburgh and the car park at the Sands of Forvie National Nature Reserve. The semi-resident King Eider hadn't been reported for a couple of days, and with no other birders around I was looking forward to having to search for it myself.
King Eider, Ythan Estuary
I headed down the east side of the estuary, checking every small group of Eider. No dice, but a couple of Long-tailed Ducks were a bonus. After a while I reached the point where the dunes rise up but the beach is roped off to protect nesting birds and the tern colony further up the estuary.

King Eider,Ythan Estuary

This is a great place to sit as it has a bit of height - a good vantage point to see and hear the terns (including good numbers of Little Tern), and to scan through the great majority of eiders which were loafing beyond the rope barrier. There are about 1,000 in the colony, so this is no easy task. I checked them all and the 997th bird I looked at was a drake King Eider, strutting around on a sand bar. It was very distant, but I was happy to see it after last year's dip. During one last scan I couldn't relocate it - it turned out that was because it had flown back up the estuary without me noticing. When I returned to the car I was keeping an eye out and sure enough it was feeding just offshore with a group of Eider allowing a closer view.

King Eider, Ythan Estuary
A couple of immature (in every sense) seals were winding up the local roosting Oystercatchers by bodysurfing up on the sand close enough to cause them unease. Their wasn't enough intent in their actions for this to be called 'hunting', so they seemed to be doing it out of pure mischief.

Long-tailed Duck, Ythan Estuary
One final detour for a Blue-winged Teal at Kirkintilloch on the way home provided my last trip tick before the long drive south. My Scottish write-up started with a description of how the 1st winter Harlequin Duck had made itself scarce on North Uist just before I set off. Fitting then that it should end with news that it's just been refound. A shame our visits didn't overlap, and I can almost see it flicking a webby 'V' sign at me behind my back...

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