Please identify this swimming bird
QWe saw this bird swimming on the sea close to the Padstow Lifeboat Station on the north Cornwall coast on 8 August. It was alone, with the occasional Cormorant or Herring Gull close by. It did occasionally dive like a Coot. The closest seabird it resembled was a Common Scoter, but though there were nine of us looking through our scopes, we could not get a better view than the attached photo. We have heard that, on the Continent, Coots sometimes go into the sea. Alan Taylor
A You’re right, it’s a Coot – the familiar white ‘shield’ is discernible, and in terms of colouring and structure there’s really not anything else that fits the bill. Although they are essentially freshwater birds, they are sometimes seen on the sea, as are a number of other species that we might otherwise associate with calm inland waters – Mute Swans, for example, sometimes congregate in estuaries, swimming a short way out to sea and back again. So, this is a reminder that birds turn up well out of their usual context rather more often than you might expect.