Easterly winds forecast, with hopes for good bass fishing, but this morning the banner bows and flutters in southerly winds blowing up the sunlit coast. A choppy, jade green sea is stained with wave-kicked sand and low, white combers rake the Point.
Scanning the bay, black Scoter rise briefly, then fall from sight in green waves, water beyond the sheltering point even harder to search. Lit by autumn sun, a long, low, grey form, pale flanks and breast, smooth, grey, tubular neck and thin, upraised bill rolls in the chop: early Red Throated Diver, eponymous rusty neck patch retained from summer
Common Scoter are so familiar here in winter, that anything entirely black or dark brown is quickly passed by in scanning the bay. They scatter in small parties all across a bay protected as a major over-wintering site; always very active, with lines of black ducks flying low over the water or individuals flying between flocks, a commotion as they splash down, gate-crashing the new party. On still winter days, a faint mewing drifts over the dunes from the bay and drake Scoter kick up white spray with webs & wings as they jostle and joust for mates.
Today, for the first time it was noted that one party of about seven Scoter included only one brown female, the focus for the group of toffee-billed, black drakes. Checking other scattered parties, it became clear that not only were all the groups of more or less the same number, but that each of them included only one female.
The literature describes the courtship rituals and display and notes the sexual imbalance, but suggests that males predominate towards the north of their range, females to the south. It would be interesting to know how selection of mates differs between these populations.
Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk