Since then, I've seen Long-tailed Ducks regularly, but in England they're pretty thin on the ground and a flock of 20 is certainly noteworthy. In addition, they often tend to be well offshore, particularly in the relatively shallow North Sea where I did most of my birding in the last 20 years or more. I remember once seeing a large flock of well over 100 birds in the Firth of Forth on the East coast of Scotland one winter in the 1990s, but it wasn't until this winter that I really fulfilled a desire to see these birds really well.
Other birds passing by gave some nice flight views. Long-tailed Ducks are easily identified even at great range by their all dark wings with no wing bars or white markings, which contrast with the pale bodies.
Rising up higher, this male allowed me to get some of the feel of the habitat into the shot.
As these two peeled away, the crashing breakers came into full view - I needed to keep an eye on them as well as the ducks while I was in the water!!
With a strong swell on the water, timing the shots was tricky, but I was pleased to get this pair riding over the top of a wave just before it broke.
The first full view of a female for you - the left hand bird with the white face and brown back. This is most of the group of six birds that dropped down in front of me at Townsend's Inlet as I sheltered from a hideous cold wind!
Much pushing, shoving, cooing and generally showing off followed!
The female makes a getaway during a particularly boisterous moment, but she didn't go far before dropping into the water again - I think she quite liked the attention! Most of our northern ducks court and pair up during the winter; this allows for better use of their time during the relatively short summer that they spend in the high Arctic. If they are already paired up, they can go north in the spring and just get on with the family raising chores. (Or at least the females can; the males don't have much to do with it, but that's another story!
The female's certainly the centre of attention here!
The female dives....
...and the lads are left looking for her!
Well, there you go, that's Long-tailed Ducks for you - though I reckon they will feature again soon!