Seaducks, known as scoters, feature regularly in Bird Notes, but rarely interest anyone without a high-powered telescope. Even then, a view usually involves black dots flying halfway to the horizon or bobbing on the sea, glimpsed briefly between the waves. Small numbers of Common Scoters winter in Cardigan Bay and larger flocks are frequently off Benllech and Llanddulas-Pensarn. Liverpool Bay is designated a Special Protection Area for Common Scoters (and several other species), requiring the UK and Welsh Governments to take measures to secure their conservation.
Aerial surveys ahead of windfarm installations show the scoter flock in Liverpool Bay to be very mobile. It has numbered almost 290,000 birds in recent years – remarkably, that’s more than twice the current estimate of the average UK wintering population, and more than one quarter of the global total. Numbers may peak in late winter as Russian- and Scandinavian-breeding Common Scoters here since October are joined temporarily by those that wintered in the North Sea and stop here on their way to Iceland.
Each winter, a few rarer scoters are seen from shore: Velvet Scoters that also breed in the Eurasian tundra and Surf Scoters, their rarer North American relative. Last week, all three species were unusually close to land, enabling some of the best photographs to be taken in Welsh waters. The image above won Henllan photographer Tony Pope the Photo of the Week award from the Birdguides news service. Up to eight Surf Scoters have been seen at one time off the Conwy coast in the last decade, and it’s interesting to speculate where these go each summer, as well as how many more there are beyond our eyesight.
Other sightings in the last week include a Green-winged Teal at RSPB Cors Ddyga, Cattle Egrets at Valley, Water Pipit at Gronant and Ring-necked Duck on Cefni Reservoir. Slavonian Grebes are off the Great Orme, Pensarn and in Beddmanarch Bay, Hawfinches at Llanrwst and Llanbedr y Cennin, and long-staying Black Redstart and Snow Bunting at Kinmel Bay.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.