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1999: Common Scoter, Pennington

By October 11 I was back in Hampshire:

“I clocked up 59 species in four hours, which to my mind makes Pennington and Keyhaven Marshes a cracker. The birds included little egret, pintail, peregrine falcon, greenshank, little stint, arctic tern, kingfisher and jay. However, I could have got species number 60 if I had been smart enough to latch on to it.

“It was a dark duck with an obvious sticking-up tail quite a way out to sea and very backlit. Initially I thought of eider but the line from its bill to its crown did not seem straight enough. I then got distracted by trying to identify the tern, which was the first one I had seen in England. Of course the duck had gone after that.

“However, later another dark duck, quite probably the same one, flew past. I tried to check it for markings. Again it was distant, so all I got was a pale section under the wing and possibly a very thin wing bar. All of which suggested female eider again but the lighting was much more favourable this time and I think that the duck was black – a scoter?

“It seems a safe enough guess despite the questionable field marks. Try it with a common bird and see how many differences you can find from the description in your field guide.”

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