Its been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. The Black Scoter twitch is one of the best days birding I have had for a long time. Having been tempted by this bird for so long the time finally came to go, to try and get it. I set off at the later time of 7.12 from Sheffield due to Saturday Public transport and arrived in Berwick for 10.30, on the bus to Cheswick at 11.10 and then on the beach at around 11.40.
During my travels I did pick up one yeartick in the form of Red Kite which drifted over the train near Leeds. Plenty of other birds too, including Lapwing, Common Buzzards, Stock Dove, Curlew and Shelduck to name a few.
As soon as I arrived on the beach at Cheswick having fair paced it down from the road, I began to roll in the birds. First up was a small group of Common Scoter, which were joined by 2 Slavonian Grebes. Smashing start. There were not many birders there, only 3, but there had been no news on the black scoter, so it was down to us to find it.
I, however, had other birds to deal with, as some scanning produced my most desired lifer in the form of a flock of 3 Long-Tailed Ducks. I was over the moon and set about watching and trying to digi-scope them (I failed). It turned out that there were an awful lot of them out there, at least 20, but scattered and hard to count. Either way, they were smashing birds and well worth waiting for. Its just a pity they were so far out.
I could go on about LTD's for a bit, but the next segment is how Black Scoter came to be added to my list. From the point near the car park we could not seen the black scoter, and only a small group of commons to go off. One birder decided to wander up the beach to the rocks but the other two and myself decided to stay put. After another 15 mins with no joy I noticed that the birder on the rocks had now become 4 birders on the rocks, but through bins I could see they were all looking in different directions. They clearly did not have it!
With that in mind I decided to head down the beach the other way to see if there was anything that way. I had spotted another small group of Common Scoters but they were far away and mainly sleeping it seemed so I wanted to check these out. I found them again from my new vantage point but it was clear that the number of birds was going to be hard to work out as they were consistently diving and very hard to follow. Only around 3 birds stayed up for any real length time. However, when there were more birds one did stick out as having more yellow, but it was swiftly lost again. Heart beating frantically I started my search again, but it was around 5 mins later when I picked up the bright yellow again, but once more it was swiftly lost. On the second time though it was clear there were no common scoters that bright (Some drakes had looked very yellow earlier) and with that it mind I raced to the beach to frantically wave my arms at the birders back near the car park.
it took at least 90 seconds before the birders attention had been gained. Now really worried I may have got it wrong I raced back to my scope to try and re-find the bird. That was never going to happen and when I was joined by the other birders I could only tell them what I had seen as I had been unable to track it down. Thank goodness, one of the arriving birders picked it up not long after he had arrived and so began the describing of the location on a sea with no place-markers on it at all.
For the following 2 hours or so we watched the bird on and off as we lost it, moved position to get a better view, lost it again, saw it, lost it, gave vague directions, lost it, digiscoped it, watched it and so on. By the end though I had seen it plenty of times and could clearly see it was the bird we were looking for.
When the birds did stay up in a group the yellow stood out so much. It was so obviously different with a bright yellow blob on its beak. The only real downside was that it was so far away, and I would deffo not have been able to do it with my old scope. Its the first time I have been at a twitch and personally found the bird we were looking for, so that was a great personal milestone to have reached and I was choughed, as were the other birders. I even got handshakes, though I was just pleased to have been able to see it and get the others onto it.
I mentioned my digiscoping...
-Black Scoter (With Common Scoter)
Its my first time digiscoping since my compact camera has not liked any scope I have tried it with except for this one. Just as well really, as otherwise I would have been unable to get a record shot at all with the distance.
There were plenty of other goodies out there besides the LT duck and the Scoters, including all 3 diver species, though the Great Northerns were only fly-bys and there was only one Black-Throat. There were plenty of Eiders on the sea and flying, and also a drake Red Breasted Merganser flew north, which was another yeartick for the day. On the beach itself there were a few Sanderling and a flock of Ringed Plovers, just to add to the fantastic cast of birds.
By around half 3 I decided to walk back to Berwick and save myself a couple quid on the bus. It was a well founded decision and took nowhere near as long as google maps said it would. It started very well, though I got lost in the dunes, but for getting lost I did pick up Stonechat near a small stream with some reeds. Whilst watching the stonechat I noticed something small and blueish move in the reeds and though my view was brief I had spotted my second Water Rail of the year. I had gone for the camera in my bag but I had not been able to get it out in time before the bird melted into the reeds. But still a fantastic record.
To avoid getting so lost I would end up missing my train I headed back to the beach to walk along. On the rocks where the birders had been earlier were a few Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers which were roosting there now that the tide was in. In the late afternoon sun they looked superb and another reason to put up more photos of Purple Sandpipers this year. What simply great birds.
-Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone
The walk back along the coast was beautiful with the early evening sun casting a reddish glow over everything and the general peace of the area. Once back in the Berwick town area I picked up another nice day-tick with a few Goldeneye that were in the harbor. There were a few other birds too, like Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail and Sparrowhawk.
It was a really nice end to the day, so I will close off with a couple of shots of the area, the first of the beach and the second of Berwick in the evening light. A truly fantastic days birding, with a bonus of 2 lifers. Can't go wrong there!
Train Journey: Red Kite, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Black-Headed Gull, Starling, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon, Common Buzzard, Pheasant, Stock Dove, Lapwing, Collard Dove, Mallard, Coot, Grey Heron, Goosander, Curlew, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Cormorant, Shelduck, Rook, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Herring Gull, Roe Deer, Brown Hare, Red Fox,
Cheswick Sands: Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Long-Tailed Duck, Eider, Great Northern Diver, Black Scoter, Red Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Rock Pipit, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Pied Wagtail, Gannet, Stonechat, Water Rail, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Red-Breasted Merganser, Robin, Redshank, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, House Sparrow,
Berwick-Upon-Tweed: Goldeneye, Grey Wagtail, Mute Swan, Eider, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Mallard, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Sparrowhawk, Redshank, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw