Surf Scoter - Brilzee-eend

Surf Scoter


Melanitta perspicillata

Picture: Teus Luijendijk


November/December 2000, Oosterend, Terschelling Fr

January 2004, Brouwersdam Ze


November/December 2000, Oosterend, Terschelling Fr

Common Scoters Melanitta nigra winter in huge numbers on the North Sea off the coast of the Frisian isles (mainly Terschelling Fr), The Netherlands. An opportunity to screen through these groups has always been a wish of Dutch Birders, since it was expected that these large flocks may also hold one or more Surf Scoters M. perspicillata, a very rare species in our country. However, the rafts are often too far offshore to go through and the birds apparently are very easily frightened by ships getting too close, so that approach will not work either.
Help came with the onset of a prolonged period of southerly winds, starting in October 2000. In fact, the wind hadn't even been from a northerly direction on a single day for weeks until late in December. This meant for the scoter flocks that the birds seeked 'shelter' from the wind rather close inshore. It was because of this relatively low distance from the beach that a male Surf Scoter was discovered the 4th of November. A boat was chartered for the next day to bring 77 observers to the island in order to screen this site. I joined this trip and managed to get pretty good (although distant) views of no less than 2 male Surf Scoters. Pictures, however, could not be taken because of a sudden deterioration of the weather with incoming fog.
More excursions were organised during the next few weeks and most of these were successful: on one occasion, no less than 5 birds were seen: 2 adult males, 2 immature males and a female. Obviously, these rafts must contain Surf Scoters every winter!
I participated on another trip again in early December. It was then that I tried to make some video recordings of one of three males we glimpsed. This proved to be practically impossible: the resolution of the viewfinder is much lower than the eventual recording, so it's just a matter of guessing where exactly the bird must be, and merely shooting the video through the scope in that direction!
Here is one still I could manage to 'distill' from the mess I recorded. The bird is facing left and the only thing visible is the pale bill and the white spot on the rear of the head. Don't forget that the distance may in fact have been well over 1 km!


Surf Scoter  -  Brilzee-eend  Melanitta perspicillata   adult male in a flock of Common Scoters M. nigra and Eiders Somateria mollissima;  videograb (320x), contrast somewhat enhanced.
Oosterend, Terschelling Fr, The Netherlands, 2 December 2000.


January 2004, Brouwersdam Ze

A long awaited show-up was a bird found in a wintering raft of Common Scoters M. nigra  at the Brouwersdam. This is a good site for Long-tailed Ducks, divers and alcids. As the weather conditions usually are pretty harsh here, it was no surprise that this bird was found during a rare sunny day with hardly any wind. The birds were observed from a distance of approximately 800 m, which made photographing again quite a challenge!

  Surf Scoter  -  Brilzee-eend  Melanitta perspicillata   first-winter male in a flock of Common Scoters M. nigra;  videograb
  (320x), contrast somewhat enhanced.
  Brouwersdam Ze, The Netherlands, 21 January 2004.


Copyright ©Teus Luijendijk 2000-2004