My week on Bardsey was cut short by forecast impending storms, and I came off two days early on 23rd October. The crossing was at first light, so I had all day to play with as long as I was back in Blackpool for early evening. I guess most people would have worked the Lleyn peninsula or gone to Conwy RSPB. However I have a soft spot for scoter, regularly watching the large flocks off Blackpool, and decided to check some of the likely spots along the North Wales coast.
Llanfairfechan was fairly quiet, though it was nice to relive seeing the Black Scoter here more years ago than I care to remember. There was a ringed Mute Swan here – white ABOV – with an unringed mate and cygnets.
I decided to head straight to Llanddulas and give it a decent go from there, as my recollection was that this is the best site. When I got there the conditions were very good, almost high tide with little wind and bright conditions. I was disappointed how distant the scoter were, I always thought they were really close in off the Welsh coast compared with the ones off Blackpool but they were quite distant. After a couple of scans I ‘tweeted’ that they might as well be the Blackpool birds given how poor the views were.
On the third scan however I suddenly picked up something white in one of the relatively close groups. It didn’t take long to resolve this into the nape of a cracking drake Surf Scoter even though it was some way out. I put the news out via Twitter, joking that I would be eating my words for lunch.
I have never done the North Wales scoter before, rather masochistically trying to find my own Surfer off Blackpool and finally doing so this March. It was nice that when I finally did get the chance to do so I was able to pick up the first returning Surf Scoter of the 2013/14 winter.