viernes, 19 de octubre de 2012

Common Scoter

 Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)

There was a short-lived storm on October 18, and while driving through the harbour of Santa Cruz de La Palma in the late afternoon, I spotted two ducks resting close to the pontoons in the marina. They could easily have been mistaken for abandoned mooring buoys. Unfortunately, I had neither binoculars nor a camera with me at the time, but was able to get close enough to identify the birds as Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra), probably immature females.

Using the camera of my mobile phone for the first time, I took a few pictures of very poor quality: all the images shown in the present post were taken with a Fuji HS10 this morning, Oct 19, when only one of the two birds could be located.

Referred to as the Black Scoter in the Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia (García-del-Rey, E., Lynx 2011), the species is classed as a vagrant to the Canary Islands, with records from Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote. Tony Clarke, in Birds of the Atlantic Islands (Helm, 2006), gives more details: "accidental visitor, but with only three recent records. On Lanzarote, two, Arrecife, Jan 1993, and one there, Jan 1994, and an exhausted immature, El Médano (Tenerife), 13 Dec 1998. Also recorded on Gran Canaria but not within the last 100 years".

Luckily, I got to Santa Cruz just as the last duck was making its way seawards. Before leaving the protected waters of the harbour, it made a short detour into the fishing-boat area, where I saw it dive a few times and pick crabs off the rocks. It then continued paddling south, parallel to the Bajamar beach, less than 50 metres off-shore.

A group of women bathers seemed disconcerted by its arrival...

... and were obviously relieved when the duck decided to ignore them.

For an interesting summary of documented appearances of the  Common Scoter in the Canary Islands (in Spanish), including details of recent records from Madeira, see the SEO/Birdlife blog here

This sighting will be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

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