Missing Mergansers

The Fylde Bird Club newsletter came out yesterday. This prompted a few thoughts on my part. This included how far the standard of local bird club newsletters has come on, with advances in photography and desktop publishing. It also struck me that it’s a bit sad that finder’s accounts of rarities are somewhat old hat by the time they are published in annual bird reports. They generally feature in copy hungry newsletters, and if they are sufficiently rare online on the Birdguides and RBA websites also.

Anyway the thing that really hit home with me is that in the two months under review there has only been one Red-breasted Merganser reported. I still consider RBMs to be a regular seaduck off Fleetwood and Rossall Point. I guess with at least one keen Fleetwood birder no longer submitting records regularly they may be being overlooked, but on the face of it they seem to have largely disappeared from the Fylde wintering birdlife and it feels like it crept up on us by stealth.

They aren’t the only seaduck species that is getting significantly more scarce. Long-tailed Duck and Velvet Scoter are others that have become decidedly less frequent, and bycatch loss in fishing nets is known to be part of the issue. Smew were always scarce on the Fylde but they are now decidedly rare as they ‘short stop’ and winter on the Continent more.

On the other hand the Merganser’s close relative has become more conspicuous locally. I still think of Goosanders as freshwater birds, but it appears you are more likely to see them on a Blackpool seawatch these days than their congeners.

The Goosander wintering on Stanley Park, not the sharp cut off between head and chest colour compared with female mergansers

Have you seen the shaggy crested merganser locally. Do report your sightings at http://www.fyldebirdclub.org/sightings.aspx.

Red-breasted Mergansers on Out Skerries the other year, I don’t seem to have any local shots for obvious reasons

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