Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sea ducks galore!

As reported on the CT-Birds list serve, there is currently an impressive flock of sea ducks present on the west side of Stratford Point. Thousands of ducks of both scaup species and all three scoters are within easy scoping distance from shore -- best viewed from the bottom of Cove Place, but also visible from Stratford Point. In previous winters, a comparable flock has been present well off-shore (possibly half a mile out) from Stratford Point with smaller numbers of ducks (a couple dozen tops) closer to shore. However, we have not had such great views of these birds and in these numbers for a while. It is quite a sight to watch the flock constantly reshape itself, with birds flying up from one end of the pack to the other. Come see it for yourself sometime - but dress warmly!

large numbers of White-winged Scoters and Greater Scaup rearrange themselves
within the flock currently present off Stratford Point

Another reason to come see these ducks is that all kinds of other species could be hiding in their ranks, as Frank Mantlik's discovery of two female King Eider shows. Both were still present today. During an afternoon survey on Stratford Point I found another unusual species on the fringe of the flock: an adult male Common Eider was foraging between the rocks below the US Coast Guard lighthouse.

Common Eider have become fairly regular visitors to the Long Island Sound and to Stratford Point during cold spells in winter, but it is still rare to see an adult male here.

The video below shows it diving, "treading water" and resurfacing with an undoubtedly tasty morsel. Watching this striking bird up close certainly made the frigid temperatures out there a little more bearable!

photos and video copyright Twan Leenders

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