Twice already this autumn I have blogged about some rarity (at least at the county level) that has turned up at Farmoor. First of course it was the Red-necked Grebe and soon after that was the Arctic Skua. There's no doubt that the concrete basin is having a good autumn as far as county listing is concerned. Today however it pushed it into a different league with what is by all ways of measuring it a county Mega.
It was around noon when it all kicked off. I was staring vacantly at my computer screen and starting to think about lunch when I was woken from my reverie by the familiar "boing" of an incoming text. "More spam messages I suppose" I thought but no it turned out to be a Badger text: "Velvet Scoter currently on F2 per Dave Daniels" it read. It took a few second for this to sink in. Yes, it clearly says "Velvet" rather than "Common". Velvet Scoter was a monstrous rarity in the county with the last sighting being from the 1990's! I started to gather my wits and my birding gear together. Badger called to check that I'd got the message - he was already on his way. I left a note for my VLW and hurried out the door with all my birding clobber.
I arrived at Farmoor to find Dai and Badger scoping something in the distance. Fortunately that something turned out to be the Velvet Scoter - result! It was right out in the middle from where we were watching though drifting in towards the causeway slowly. Bark, Oz, Lew, The Wickster & The Law all turned up and we moved en masse along the causeway to get better views even though this meant that we were now looking into the winter sunshine. It was at this moment that Lew's ancient scope chose to disassemble itself so he had to get down to the fiddly business of trying to sort it out in the chilly wind on the causeway. Apparently it had done this once before about ten years ago so he knew what he was doing. Two-Eyes, the Paranoid One and Elementerry arrived shortly afterwards to join the throng.
The bird itself was an adult female with a nice white wing stripe and some white markings on its cheek and the back of its head. I tried to take some digiscoped photos though it was diving actively about 200 yards out and partially into the sun so it wasn't easy. In the end by cranking up the exposure and doing a fair amount of Photoshop tweaking I did manage to take a few that came out ok.
Lew ruefully commented on the passing of a great county blocker that only the most senior county birders had on their lists - it was indeed a most welcome grip-back for the younger generation. There was much banter and joviality amongst the assembled crowd though quite a few people had to get back to work including me so some of us soon headed off. As we retraced our steps more county birders were streaming towards the causeway to pay homage to this county Mega.
Happy County Birders!
What a great interruption to the working day and yet another stonking county bird from Farmoor. This site has now provided me with three county ticks this autumn. What will it turn up next?
I got an e-mail later on from an out-of-county birder called Ray Reedman. Apparently he and a couple of chums had originally found the Scoter between 10:30 and 11am that morning though due to technical difficulties they hadn't been able to report the news on Going Birding. Fortunately, Dave Daniels independently found it anyway and got the news out. Well done Dave!