Was I up for another dose of Crakewatch? No! Shropshire was not even on the agenda today with an golden opportunity to see a bird, rarely seen at close quarters, a first winter Velvet Scoter, spending Christmas on a small stretch of water at Barrow Lodge, near Clitheroe, Lancs. Yvonne was up for it too, so we left an icy VP for the frozen North?
Fog nearly put a dampener on proceedings too but we knew the Scoter had been seen earlier in the day and once North of Manchester, the fog lifted revealing blue skies and with a snow covered Pendle Hill dominating the landscape - we reached the destination....
50% coverage of ice still left the Scoter with quite a bit of water to feed from - it was certainly wary of human presence! Photographs were guaranteed by sitting quietly behind cover and waiting (basic fieldcraft!) A couple of birders plus a photographer or two chose the open bank approach but eventually I got them on board....
Preening and looking very relaxed about it!
Diving for the local speciality down below!
Why is the Scoter happy here? The abundant supply of freshwater mussels certainly ensured it has plenty of food and gave plenty of photo-opportunities!
A close up of another tasty billful before swallowing whole - we watched it dispatch at least 20 of various sizes (mostly huge). Presume they are crushed in the gizzard before digestion?? I'll settle for mine boiled and dressed with garlic!
Another great day to remember with quite an amazing bird - probably my last travelling of the year too!!