Saturday 1 April 2023

surprise alcid in Mie

On the Pacific side of my region, any alcid is a very good find. A single Ancient Murrelet is the only one I can think of having seen. And, while I may daydream about all kinds of amazing birds on my way out birding, a good wader, a rare duck, an unexpected passerine, alcids have never ever featured on the fantasy radar. So bearing that in mind, I hope I can be forgiven for being totally stumped by this duck in with a flock of Greater Scaup.

The odd duck was clearly smaller than the Scaup and white seemed to extend right back round the eye. Where's the white patch on a Harlequin Duck? That would be an excellent find this far south.

But it's not a Harlequin though, is it.

Nope, no bells ringing yet and alcid still not on the radar. Until it woke up...

It finally woke up and all was revealed.

Unlike other duck species which have dropped to much lower numbers by late March, Gt Scaup always hang on in their thousands. There are huge rafts all along the 20-30 km I might cover when birding in Mie. Many rafts are so far out they even aren't worth looking at. Closer rafts might be so large as to be too time consuming to be worth more than a scan through for anything obviously different. But any close flock of a manageable size is worth going through in the hope of a Lesser. This was one such flock, although picking up this 'odd duck' was far easier than any Lesser Scaup would have been.

Quite why it was so attached to the Scaup, I've no idea. But then, why was it so far south of where it should have been in the first place? I've only been able to find one record of a Spectacled Guillemot this far south but it's never easy to get accurate information about such birds. It is safe to say this is definitely a major rarity in this part of Japan. Any rare is a good rare, of course, but having been in Hokkaido just last month, I'd have preferred something from the opposite direction. There's just no pleasing some people.

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