29 Nov 2008 - King Eiders, Fin Whale(s) and more, Montauk

There was a nice mix of late-fall/winter birds in the Montauk area this afternoon with impressive numbers of Common and Red-throated Loons, Northern Gannets and scoters offshore, and the highest counts of Bonaparte's Gulls I've had so far this season.

At Hither Hills State Park, the CLAY-COLORED SPARROW continues on the loop east of the campground entrance, along with 2 FIELD SPARROWS. A YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT made a brief appearance before diving back into the bushes near the eastern most shower block. At Culloden Point, 2 RED-NECKED GREBES were steaming around among the loons, and a single PURPLE SANDPIPER was on the jetties at Montauk Inlet.

The numbers of Common Eider and scoter continue to build off Montauk Point and whilst sifting through these I spotted 2 adult male KING EIDERS flying into the large raft gathered to southeast of the lighthouse. I understand three King Eiders were also seen in the morning. Unfortunately most of the seaduck are quite distant and best studied as they pick up and fly to compensate for the drift caused by the tide. A FIN WHALE was actively feeding directly south of the Camp Hero overlook. A MERLIN was noted coming in off the sea from the southeast. A paultry total of three LAUGHING GULLS (1 ad and 2 first winter) for the day confirmed the mass exodus triggered by last weekend's coldsnap. At Ditch Plains, the male HARLEQUIN DUCK continues in the rocky area east of the trailer park and a FIN WHALE (perhaps a second?) was feeding offshore. At least two SNOWY OWLS are being seen in the Town of East Hampton. There is evidently a fairly significant incursion into the northeast this year with a number on Long Island already and it will be interesting to see how many establish wintering territories or continue south. Please use common sense and view roosting owls from a distance to avoid unecessary disturbance.

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