SPECIES TO LOOK OUT FOR

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - WILD JANUARY -

Long-tailed duck

Vis­it­ing from breed­ing grounds as far away as the Arctic Cir­cle, there is no mis­tak­ing the long tail and pre­dom­i­nantly white plumage, with dark wings, of a male ‘long­tail’ in its win­ter fin­ery. These neat sea ducks are usu­ally seen in flocks, with un­paired birds of­ten choos­ing the win­ter­time to find a part­ner be­fore they head north.

Com­mon scoter

Breed­ing in tiny num­bers up in Scot­land’s Flow Coun­try, the vast ma­jor­ity of over­win­ter­ing scoter will have come from north­ern Europe and Rus­sia. The all-black males have a small patch of yel­low on the bill, in con­trast to the dark-brown fe­males, how­ever, only a few se­lect lo­ca­tions will host large rafts of this so­cia­ble sea duck.

Red-breasted mer­ganser

One of the saw­bills, these long-bod­ied and long­necked div­ing ducks have dis­tinct wispy crests, coloured ei­ther dark green or red­dish-brown, depend­ing on the sex. Of­ten en­coun­tered in smaller flocks than the sea ducks, these birds tend to be found closer to shore, as they con­stantly dive for their fish prey.

Great north­ern diver

This heavy-look­ing diver with a dag­ger-like bill and dis­tinc­tive ‘dou­ble bump’ to its crown will have flown south from breed­ing grounds as far away as Ice­land, Green­land and Arctic Canada. The wa­ters off north­west Scot­land seem to be the pre­ferred lo­ca­tion for the ma­jor­ity of the es­ti­mated 2,600 in­di­vid­u­als that spend the win­ter around the Bri­tish coast.

Slavo­nian grebe

Most bird­ers will be far more fa­mil­iar with the ‘Slav’s’ black-and­white win­ter plumage, than the colour­ful breed­ing fin­ery, as the Scot­tish pop­u­la­tion is now tiny. The res­i­dent birds are then boosted by im­mi­grants from Ice­land and Scan­di­navia in au­tumn, with over a thou­sand now re­sid­ing in our coastal wa­ters each win­ter.

The great north­ern diver tends to be soli­tary. Bot­tom left: com­mon scot­ers.

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