Velvet Scoters at Willen Lake

Velvet Scoter by Jim Rose, Willen Lake 7 November 2016

Velvet Scoter by Jim Rose, Willen Lake 7 November 2016

Two ducks more at home on the high seas have dropped in to South Willen Lake for the past few days.

The two juvenile Velvet Scoters, a rare species of sea duck, have been wowing birders since they were discovered on the morning of 7th November 2016 by former MKNHS member Paul Moon. This is the third time this species has been found at Willen down the years and only the tenth time ever for Buckinghamshire although, amazingly, a third scoter turned up at Dorney Lake, South Bucks on 8th November 2016.

Scoters are dark, almost jet black in colour but the Velvet Scoter has an attractive white patch around its eye and also a white wing patch, which is very evident when it flies or preens on the water. They are diving ducks, feeding on mussels, snails and other freshwater molluscs and invertebrates. The species does not breed in the UK, being native to Russia and north-east Europe, but each winter up to 30,000 winter around the east and south coasts of Britain. Few ever stray so far inland however.

The two birds, both  thought to be young males (although the jury is still out), are frequenting the southern end of Willen Lake and can be seen from in front of the Lakeside Hotel and LA Fitness gym. They are generally to be found some way out from shore between the orange buoys and solar panels. Scan the flock of coots with binoculars and you should be able to pick out these unusual and very smart visitors.

Article kindly provided by Martin Kincaid.

You can see more photos and a video of the Velvet Scoters on Jim Rose’s blog