Saturday, 12 November 2016

Eton rifles

After all the excitement of the last few weeks, everything seems to have calmed down on the birding front. With no lifers within reasonable striking distance I've not really been out much. Still, a velvet scoter within 20 miles or so did stir me into action this morning.
Velvet scoters are the rarer versions of the common scoter, an archetypal sea duck normally seen at great distance flying past rocky headlands in gales. Strangely though, a few do crop up inland and without any scientific evidence to back me up, it seems like velvets do so more than common's. Last year 3 hung around for over a week at Grafham and this year there are 2 long-stayers in Bedfordshire and one, my target, at the Eton rowing club lake at Dorney.
I don't think I've been here since 2012 when we watched some Olympic rowing. It's a very long, 2km artificial lake split into two parts, the main bit they do the rowing on and what is termed the return lake where they can potter back to the clubhouse for a refreshing pink gin. It can be quite good for birds along with the nearby Jubilee River, and I've had roseate tern whimbrel and pectoral sandpiper in the past.
Anyway, I got to the lake about 8 in crisp Autumnal sunshine with a bit of mist on the lake. I parked up and strolled along the lake.
Everything was pretty quiet. There were no rowers on the lake although a member of the UK Nordic skiing team was going round and round the lake on what was a cross between skis and giant roller skates!
I first walked down the main lake.

There were small numbers of ducks, mainly mallards, wigeon, gadwall and a couple of tufties as well as cormorants, grebes and a few gulls mooching around but no sign of the scoter. Birdguides suggested it was near the 1250m marker, and there were a lot of ducks there as well as a cut-through to the return lake! So, I walked round the end of the lake and started off down the path separating the two lakes.
Immediately you could see there were many more ducks around, including this little group of Egyptian geese and wigeon on the far bank. It's still amazing how the Egyptians have now become part of the scenery from being rare escapes only 15 or so years ago.

 I quite quickly got onto one lone duck though, diving happily in the middle of the stream.
 Now you see it, now you don't!!

This was the velvet scoter. A classic of the type, media sized with the classic white tear-shaped mark behind the eye.

The other real characteristic which separates them from common scoter is the white wing-bar they show when flying.

As I had to get back I couldn't spend much more time pestering it to get better photos but a good bird and a lovely, if short, morning.