16 Nov 2008 - Franklin's Gull off Montauk

The weather today was very different from yesterday with cooler temperatures, patches of clear sky and a strong westerly wind. In hopes of western strays brought by the shifting wind, I visited a number of spots between Bridgehampton and Montauk.

The highlight was a 1st-winter FRANKLIN'S GULL that passed in front of the restaurant at Montauk Point just before 2:00 pm. I was sifting through the steady stream of gulls, mostly Laughing and Herring Gulls, that were rounding the point from the south side on route to an immense feeding congregation some ways north of Shagwong Point. When I first picked the bird up, it was almost head on but struck me as something different from the Laughing Gulls. As it turned, I got a good view of the head with its prominent 'half' hood, and white eye arcs. When viewed alongside some Laughing Gulls (1st winters and adults), the slightly shorter wings, smaller body and more peg-like black bill were quite evident. The Franklin's landed on the water a couple of times near some feeding eiders but stayed for only a few seconds before taking flight again. Unfortunately, it continued passed my viewing point and disappeared once it rounded the edge of the beach. Although I spent most of the encounter studying the bird in the scope, I managed a squeeze of a couple of fuzzy photographs as a record. This has been real nemesis bird for me on Long Island, I can't bare to think of how many Laughing Gulls I have carefully looked at in search of this species. The degree of variation in Laughing Gulls is daunting once you start looking at them closely and thus a suite of positive characters is needed for a safe ID.

Other notables today were the greatly increased numbers of COMMON EIDER off the Point. I guesstimated around 1,000 passing the restaurant in 2.5 h of watching and a modest flight of GREAT CORMORANTS, with a flock of 36 whilst seawatching from Hither Hills State Park. Other winter seaduck are also building in numbers.

On terra firma, the CACKLING GOOSE continues at Deep Hollow Ranch, on the south side of the highway, and the 2 CATTLE EGRETS were at the Mecox Dairy, although they looked pretty miserable in the buffeting wind. I noted some flocks of AMERICAN GOLDFINCH and a few PINE SISKIN at Sag Mains, Peters Pond Lane, Hither Hills SP and Deep Hollow. Alas, I did not see a swallow of any kind.

**Mecox Dairy, Mecox Rd, Bridgehampton**

** Sag Mains & Peters Pond Lane, Bridgehampton **
Merlin - 1
Pine Siskin -6

** Hook Pond, East Hampton **
Great Cormorant - 1
Atlantic Brant - 1 (1st-winter)

** Further Lane, Amagansett **
Snow Goose - 1 (adult)

** Hither Hills State Park **
Great Cormorant - 36
Laughing Gull - 500+ (all moving west)
Pine Siskin - 8

** Deep Hollow, Montauk **
Killdeer - 21
Pine Siskin - 5

** Montauk Point **
Common Eider - 1000++
Northern Gannet - 500 (plus several 1000 1-2 miles north)
FRANKLIN'S GULL - 1 (1st winter)
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL - 3 (1 ad. and 2 1st-yrs)

**Gin Beach **
Great Cormorant - 1
Palm Warbler - 1

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