All The Scoter Species Together – Feeding Frenzy

One of the great things about full-timing is the amount of serendipity around.  We just happened to be in Haines at the perfect time to witness this phenomenon although we were looking for Eagles and Whales!

We first saw Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) in a small group, maybe four or five, in the Pacific Ocean from a pier in Southern California in January, 2016.  Since then we continued to encounter them in small groups as we headed North up the coast of California, Oregon and Washington on our way to summer in Alaska.  But never in the numbers to prepare us for this!

There were thousands of Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) with a few Black Scoters (Melanitta americana) and a few White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fascia) mixed into the group.  They formed a fairly orderly column from the shore of Chilkoot Inlet and Lutak Inlet into the centre of the inlet.

Click on a photograph (not video) to add to your collection

Surf Scoters, Black Scoters and White-winged Scoters in a feeding frenzy

Surf Scoters, Black Scoters and White-winged Scoters in a feeding frenzy

They were feeding on the muscles just off shore where they could dive deep enough to get the muscles.  The leading hundred or so would dive, stay down for 20 – 30 seconds and then bob up through the surface having eaten their muscle.  Then they would paddle back through the column to let the next group dive for food.

wildlife birding photographs Haines, AK

wildlife birding photographs Haines, AK

We were just impressed by the “organized chaos” that we could see, not only of the birds who had just eaten paddling back through those coming in to eat, but the group of satiated Scoters towards the centre of the Inlet and also the groups continuously flying in to join in the feast.

Surf Scoters flying in to the feeding frenzy during migration

Surf Scoters flying in to the feeding frenzy during migration

We stood and watched for perhaps half an hour, then moved on – to find another column!

Surf Scoters, Black Scoters and White-winged Scoters in a feeding frenzy

Surf Scoters, Black Scoters and White-winged Scoters in a feeding frenzy

On the way back there was no trace of the previous column.  They had gorged on the muscles at that spot and moved along the inlet to form another “orderly” feeding column.

Click on this link to go to the gallery with Scoter Images

Gear: Nikon D4s, Nikkor 600.0mm f/4, Nikkor TC-17 EII, RRS Tripod, RRS Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film

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4 Responses to All The Scoter Species Together – Feeding Frenzy

  1. Pingback: Witnessing a Natural Phenomenon | Richard King's PhotoBlog

  2. Lenore says:

    What a fascinating phenomenon to observe! (It was very sweet to hear Louise’s voice for a moment in the video.) So happy for you and your adventure in Alaska.

  3. Judy Kelley says:

    What can be said but isn’t Nature is amazing! Enjoy all your wanderings Louise and Richard. Take care, Judy.

  4. Margaret Riley says:

    Interesting! We had some kind of black duck in groups of thousands that would appear on Lake Talquin (when we lived near Tallahassee) in December. They would stay around until the end of March. When they flew, you could hear their wings hit the water. And there were always a group of pelicans that would be with them. We had no idea where they migrated from. But it was always soothing to hear their flight in the evenings while watching the sunset from our picnic table down by the lake. Makes me wonder if these fellows are related to the Talquin ducks!

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