[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2013] – This wonderful looking seaduck was close to the top of my wishlist to spot flying by Point La Jolla! This morning the winds from the southwest had southbound bands of Surf Scoter, ten to fifteen at a time, pushed quite close to Point La Jolla. About the third flock going south had this fine looking adult male Black Scoter Melanitta americana leading the way. Easily picked out by the rich yellow colored swollen bill, it also flagged against the headwind occasionally revealing the paler underwing coloration of the flight feathers.
This is the second Black Scoter that I have seen at Point La Jolla this winter. An adult female, first spotted by Jay Keller, also passed south with Surf Scoters on 18 Dec 2012. In both cases the individual Black Scoter generally seemed well placed at the front leading the flock of Surf Scoters. It makes me wonder if there is some subtle difference in flying speed or a behavioral preference of some kind which keeps this species at the front – interesting!