The Importance Of Context

Arctic Skua on Foula last May

With onshore winds some skuas were reported on the Fylde coast today, pushed closer to land. I had a quick look at lunchtime and saw very little. I’m on Foula again in June so I will get views of Great and Arctic Skuas like the one above. It’s a truism but few birds are genuinely rare, mostly they are rare where you come across them on migration or through vagrancy.

Tonight I got out for an hour and decided to head to the Wyre at Little Singleton. Here a couple of Common Scoter were on the river. The phonescoped shot below doesn’t do justice to how well they were actually showing, as the wind was buffeting the tripod around. The yellow on the bill of the drake and the two tone head pattern on the female were both more obvious than when they are sat distantly on the sea.

Presumably this pair were joining many others on overland passage towards nesting areas in the Baltic. They obviously didn’t get very far before pausing their journey, assuming they were part of the populations on the sea on the Fylde coast. Perhaps heavy rain grounded them, perhaps they had actually set off from further west and flown further than I am giving them credit for.

The scoter that move overland generally do so at night. They were known to undertake cross-country migrations in small numbers, as they would periodically appear on Pennine reservoirs and the like. In the last few years recording of calls of birds moving overhead at night has shown this land passage to be more common than previously suspected.

You rarely see Common Scoter on freshwater on the Fylde. I’ve seen the odd one on Marton Mere and the nearby De Vere pools, I’m fairly sure these are the first ones I’ve seen anywhere else. For that reason it was nice to see them, and it was also nice to simply get better views of a species normally only seen at moderate to extreme range locally.

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