Friday 11 March 2011

Mega - STEJNEGER'S SCOTER off West Ireland

An adult drake STEJNEGER'S SCOTER (Melanitta stejnegeri) is present with up to 300 Common Scoters (nigra) in County Kerry, offshore about 9 miles SW of Killorglin and north of the N70 off Rossbeigh village.

The bird was first discovered by local birder Davy Farrar in November 2009 and was noted as a 'Velvet Scoter' again in January 2010. It returned again in December of last year and was noted by Davy on three further occasions in January and February. Josh Jones and Oliver Metcalfe happened to be in County Kerry on Monday 7 March whilst on a short birding trip twitching American Coot and the like further north and after seeing a sign for Rossbeigh and remembering a Velvet Scoter report from the location (incidentally a very rare Irish winter visitor in its own right), decided to take a look. As luck would have it, the drake Velvet was almost the first bird their 'scopes set eyes on, and after watching it for a short time, realised that this was no normal looking beast. Josh attempted to photograph and video it and texted Richard Bonser in London to clarify the differences between Velvet and North American White-winged Scoter. This set the wheels in motion and Davy Farrar having much better images from previous visits emailed them over to Killian Mullarney for comment. This was one very interesting bird indeed.

Josh informed Kerry Bird Recorder Ed Carty of his sighting and of his thoughts as soon as he returned to Britain and local birders returned to the site in an attempt to relocate it. It was not seen on Wednesday but with more eyes looking on Thursday, it was soon refound. Richard Millington was one of the first British birders to see it, and like some of the local Irish observers, his thoughts soon turned to Stejneger's Scoter from North-east Asia. The bill-shape, head-shape and overall body colour soon eliminated the more likely North American White-winged Scoter (deglandii) - the record constituting the first for Britain and Ireland (a drake deglandii had previously been recorded in Loch Glencoul, Highland, on 21 June and 1 July 1994 - Ian Rowlands et al)


Michael O'Clery has very kindly provided the following access material; From Glenbeigh, take the coast road towards Rossbeigh and just as you arrive at the obvious main beach car park, the road continues steeply uphill. There are viewpoints of the entire bay immediately to your right, and a little further on, the road forks and take the right. This narrow road contours along the cliff for several kilometres, with extensive views over any potential area the scoter might favour. In the last two days, it was favouring the SE corner of the bay.