Wednesday, 15 July 2015

It's got a bloody knob!

Birding has been an incidental activity for the last week as we enjoy life at our cabin close to Bodø. This morning I awoke early and with the girls (large and small) all still sleeping soundly I decided to have a quick birding session. My destination was Klungset by Fauske where I had the King Eider a week ago and I hoped for an increase in duck numbers with hopefully some divers and grebes to spice things up. On the way I had a couple of flyover Waxwings which is the second time I have had them here in the summer and suggests local breeding.
As I approached Fauske I stopped at the bay at Røvika and had flocks of Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye just as a week ago but a female Pintail was new and over the wooded hillside behind me a pair of Rough-legged Buzzards were hunting and angrily chasing off Ravens so most likely had a nest nearby. I was a bit disappointed there were no flocks of scoter or Red-necked Grebes and continued to my next stop hoping that the King Eider would still be present. I checked out the 20 or so Eiders but none had blue blood and then looked at the small group of Velvet Scoter that were present (seemingly the same birds that I had also looked at a week ago). I saw a couple of 2cy and adult male Velvet Scoters and then came to a sleeping adult male with its bill hidden but a very large white eye patch reminding me of an old aunts horned spectacles. I immediately got very excited and as I cranked up the magnification on the scope it briefly took its head out and there was a bloody great black knob on its bill (I could see straight through the nostril) plus the bill was reddish instead of yellow. This wasn’t a Velvet Scoter this was either a Stejneger’s or a White-winged Scoter (knoppsjøorre)!!! There is only one accepted record (of a 2cy female) plus another well documented record of a female in Finnmark this summer but surprisingly this bird was the first adult male. But which (sub)species was it? I did my best to get photos and video but the quality was nothing special due to distance and appalling light. I had no literature with me but on my phone was able to see a copy of the plate from Martin Garners “Birding Frontiers” and with the head and bill shape there could be little doubt this was of the East Asian form Stejnegeri. The photos don’t really show the bill colour very well but I saw through the scope that pink over yellow pattern that Garner describes. The head and bill shape though comes through well enough in the pictures.
I could hardly believe my good fortune. Both last week and today I had planned to go through the scoters to find something good but there were no large flocks (can be over 1000 birds here later in the summer) so what are the chances that I should find such a rarity amongst the 5 closest of no more than 20 Velvet Scoters that I saw in the bay. But I do think I deserved a bit of luck ;-)

look at that knob with a hole in it! Stejneger's Scoter (knoppsjøorre) with Velvet Scoter (sjøorre)

this picture shows the bill colour best with the paler lower edge to upper mandible visible

Although older than a 2cy bird it may be possible to age this bird as a 3cy due to a less colourful bill than I expected and also a slightly paler belly. This needs to be investigated further though and in a video I took (to be uploaded later) it looks like the belly is jet black

1 comment:

  1. Gratulerer med fantastisk flott observasjon, Simon!
    Tar turen opp til Klungset i morgen - håper jeg har litt flaks jeg også :-)