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.
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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.
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.
We stood and watched for perhaps half an hour, then moved on – to find another column!
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.
Gear: Nikon D4s, Nikkor 600.0mm f/4, Nikkor TC-17 EII, RRS Tripod, RRS Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film