Saturday, 8 February 2014

Anas horribilis

April 2013 saw me undertake a near 270 mile round trip down to Strontian in search of the long staying Black duck. I had just returned from offshore Morocco, the bird had not been reported for some time and in consequence a nasty little dip was the order of the day. With the bird recently reported back in its' winter quarters, a second attempt was obviously required. This morning at 06:00 the high section of the A835 south-east of Ullapool was white with snow, the wind creating a near blizzard and I seriously thought about aborting my attempt, however by the time I got to a reasonable turning area the snow had abated so I cautiously continued my journey. 20 minutes later I was rewarded with a fine barn owl flying over the road- a scarce bird in this part of the world since the local populations were decimated by two very long, harsh winters a few years ago. After a brief crossing on the Corran ferry I arrived in Strontian. Several small groups of mallard could be seen scattered around the bay but there was no sign of the target bird- I had a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach as I drove on to the main car park. As I was putting on my waterproofs Peter Stronach saw the bird fly in to the bay- happy days! We watched the bird wing-flap showing the conspicuous white underwing. It moved slowly around the bay with a female mallard and it certainly looked as if they had paired off. Despite putting out some bread all of the ducks refused to come in to feed and in very low light and rain I could only get a couple of miserable record shots. It was a long way to twitch a duck and I did not find it a particularly exciting species- drab plumage and no real interesting behaviour - maybe I'm being a bit harsh but it is certainly not my most enjoyable trans-atlantic vagrant- even if it was a 'lifer'!

The 'special relationship'

I have also done a bit of diving and ducking closer to home- Portmahomack on the east coast to be precise, where I had nice views of a smashing drake velvet scoter and a very sleepy long-tailed duck.

snoozing long-tailed duck
velvet scoter

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