Saturday 14th April saw me doing my first bit of local birding in a good while when I headed up to the Ythan Estuary to have a go for the King Eider; back for the third spring in a row. My expectations were pretty high of seeing the bird but I wouldn’t have minded if I dipped. However, the King Eider proved to be extremely easy to locate at the mouth of the estuary, seen immediately on scanning the closest group of Eiders to us in the channel somewhat to the left of the seal colony. We were treated to fantastic views of this truly spectacular duck, perhaps down to 25ft at first and later down to 10-15ft when it was virtually the closest duck to me as I stood on the edge of the sand, leaving me awe-struck by its beauty. I really regretted not having my DSLR on me – which is unfortunately undergoing repairs at the moment due to a dodgy pin which helps hold the memory card down – as if I had had it on me the results would have probably been pretty good! Instead I had to suffice with some digi-binned shots which nonetheless came out very well. The following have not been cropped nor edited and thus should demonstrate just how close I was to this superb bird, which well and truly graced itself in all its majesty. In the last photo the bird was on the other side of the channel, the furthest away it went for the half an hour or so that I watched it. On a number of occasions it became quite rowdy, displaying to the the female Eiders around it and warding off surrounding and understandably peeved males. I feel extremely privileged to live in the only region in the UK that boasts a ‘summering’ (although it tends to leave in late June) drake King Eider most years, and even more so to live just 10-15 miles away from the one site that hosts it.
Other interest here was provided by a healthy amount of Calidrids with a similarly healthy amount of Ringed Plovers (at least 30) including upwards of 35 Sanderlings and 15 Dunlin. A few Red-breasted Mergansers were around and it was nice to see a fairly substantial amount of Sandwich Terns back at the ternery. Apart from that however it was all quite quiet at the mouth so we moved up to the Snub. It was similarly quiet in terms of species variety here, although around 100 Curlew were dotted around, a Buzzard flew over east, at least 20 Wigeon were roosting on the Snub and 6 Pink-footed Geese were amongst a group of Greylag Geese distantly towards Logie Buchan Bridge. Before heading home, we stopped in at Meikle Loch which held 20+ Tufted Duck (interestingly somewhat more than usual, there’s normally no more than 10), a pair of Shoveler and a few smart adult Lesser Black Backed Gulls, That done, I headed home to continue revision after what had been an immensely enjoyable break; by far the best views I’ve ever had of the King Eider and the sort of views that will stick with me for some time.
Thanks for reading,