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Common Scoter Variation - UK

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Old Saturday 24th November 2012, 21:15   #1
Pitvar
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Common Scoter Variation - UK

Hello all, I had the pleasure of watching the Scoter flock at Embo yesterday, after creeping onto the pier and staying very low until they came in to feed [well until some chap set a fire on the beach and put them out to sea].

Both in the field and on looking through the photos I got, a few birds stand out - I believe they're all Common as there aren't obvious candidates for any of the other species but I'd appreciate any further information.

The birds that stood out were a single male still in the black plumage - in nearly 150 birds it was the only one in that plumage - is it late to moult or was I watching a female/immature flock with a lone male?

The others included one that was so dark on the face and neck that it looked almost like a Velvet [next to the black male in the third shot] and one with a dark marking to its lower cheek [middle second shot]. For these two I guess they're within the variation that Collins mentions but is it that they're more likely to be moulting/first year males with this darker pattern?

Thanks in anticipation
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Old Saturday 24th November 2012, 21:29   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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Nice shots. Common Scoters are pretty variable. I think you're right about the darker birds being young males. In the first shot there's another young male with its bill open (you can see the pale bill patch of a male starting to come through).

It's not that uncommon with duck (particularly diving ducks) to have mostly 'single sex' flocks, or at least flocks of mostly adult males and flocks of mostly females/ immatures. I think in some cases the wintering distribution of males and females can even differ somewhat.
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Old Sunday 25th November 2012, 10:10   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehouse View Post
Nice shots. Common Scoters are pretty variable. I think you're right about the darker birds being young males. In the first shot there's another young male with its bill open (you can see the pale bill patch of a male starting to come through).

It's not that uncommon with duck (particularly diving ducks) to have mostly 'single sex' flocks, or at least flocks of mostly adult males and flocks of mostly females/ immatures. I think in some cases the wintering distribution of males and females can even differ somewhat.
Thanks Andrew, looking at the pictures again and using the darker birds with traces of the bill patch as a guide looks like there were roughly 20-30% immature males with the rest female apart from the single adult male in a flock of around 40 birds. Next time I'll take my scope to see if there are any flocks further out with different variation.
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Old Sunday 25th November 2012, 20:46   #4
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While watching scoter flocks flying past Cley, Norfolk, last week most of them were female/1st winter birds. Don't think i saw any males at all.
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Old Monday 26th November 2012, 07:19   #5
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While watching scoter flocks flying past Cley, Norfolk, last week most of them were female/1st winter birds. Don't think i saw any males at all.
If I had a good enough scope I could go and check the huge flocks off North Wales to see if they are mainly female/1st winter too - might see if I can go and ask some of the regulars when I'm passing
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Old Monday 26th November 2012, 12:53   #6
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In pic 1, the darker bird also has the orange-yellow knob of an adult male on its bill. And I can't see any reason why his companions aren't adult females
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