American White-winged Scoter twitch, 1 April 2018

This bird was found last weekend and being a new world bird for me it had been bugging me all week! Lack of transport was an issue for me with just my crappy van but luckily Dave Russell was hatching a plan to go during the Easter weekend. With some domestic re-arrangements made Jus joined us too.  There was just one window of opportunity over the weekend when the weather forecast looked good and that was Sunday.

We left Hethersett at 14.30 on Saturday and drove straight up, managing to secure a room in a Travelodge in Musselburgh. Being just 10 minutes away we were on site by 08.00 in the morning and the small group of birders there had already located the drake American White-winged Scoter in a small group of c12 Velvet Scoters. The light was superb so despite the distance of c800 meters we managed some nice views of this subtle bird. Compared to the Velvets it had a noticably larger and more 'upturned' white eye patch and in the field at distance this was the most obvious feature. Closer scrutiny revealed a restricted coloured area on the bill which was a peachy-red colour rather than the yellowy-orange on Velvet and the 'stepped' profile of the head from crown down to bill. A further scan of the area gave us a lovely adult drake Surf Scoter, drake Long-tailed Duck, a total of c70 Velvet Scoter, loads of Eider, Shags, plenty of Goldeneye along the River Esk plus Wigeon, 2 Gadwall, Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew.

 American White-winged Scoter twitch, Musselburgh


Leaving the site we decided to drive 30 minutes east to Gulane and walk out to Gulane Point clocking a Peregrine near Aberlady en-route. Here the variety wasn't what we'd hoped for but c350 Velvet Scoters amongst 1000s of Common Scoter, 1 Scaup, 2 Fulmars, 2 Gannets, good numbers of Razorbills and a single Guillemot. It had become a 4-scoter morning which is a first for me. After a mega breakfast bap at a cafe in Gulane (square sausage anyone?!) we headed back to Musselburgh for 2nd dabs at the scoter. Sadly the flock was no nearer and with the light much worse we didn't hang around except to gawp at the Surf Scoter again!

Making our way through the traffic around the south side of Edinburgh we arrived at Blackford Pond to locate the drake Ring-necked Duck immediately. It showed amazingly well in superb light with a few Tufted Duck as did a pair of Goosander. It was time to quit Scotland and head down the Northumberland coast.

Ring-necked Duck


The pretty coastal village of Low Newton-by-the-Sea was our next destination. Another Peregrine was seen on the way before we strolled down through the village. Around the back of a barn I then found a female/1yr male Black Redstart on a fence post as we continued on (via a boinus fracas with a couple of bellend geordie birders who I pointed out the Black Redstart too only for them then claim I got in their way - the aggression and ingratitude were amazing, as were their faces when Jus and Dave walked around the corner!). On a flood there our target, a Grey Phalarope was showing very nicely, albeit along the back edge. 2 Dunlin and loads of Redshank were also on the pool as were c15 Purple Sandpipers amongst large numbers of Turnstone on a offshore islet. A Rock Pipit also flew over.

By complete contrast the grim coastal town of Newbiggin was our final port of call. Here the male White-spotted Bluethroat only found earlier in the day was showing on arrival on a very narrow strip of beach below a grassy bank.

 White-spotted Bluethroat

Job done we headed home getting back well after midnight.

Yearlist = 176  



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