18 Jan 2009 - Dovekie, Thick-billed Murre and other winter waterbirds off Montauk

Hugh McGuinness and I birded the Montauk area today as part of the DEC/NYSOA January waterfowl count. The snow/sleet mix fizzled out by late morning. The relatively windless conditions, heavy overcast and lack of heat shimmer made for excellent ocean viewing. Our highlights included a DOVEKIE, a THICK-BILLED MURRE, 53+ RAZORBILL, 4 RED-NECKED GREBE, 3 KING EIDER, 4 HARLEQUIN DUCK, 2 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE, 19 PURPLE SANDPIPER, SNOWY OWL and SHORT-EARED OWL. Common Eider and scoter numbers seemed relatively low compared to previous weeks whereas the numbers of Common Loons and Horned Grebes remain fairly high. The partially leucistic White-winged Scoter first found two weeks ago was still present off the Consession Building. As noted in an earlier post by Anthony Collerton, the BOHEMIAN WAXWING we found yesterday continues on Shore Drive in Napeague and was seen by several parties during the day.

Details of the highligh speces are as follows:

DOVEKIE - single in Turtle Cove. Found yesterday by Anthony Collerton. Turtle Cove is on the south side of the point and today was best viewed from the bluff east of the Camp Hero parking lot.

THICK-BILLED MURRE - Whilst scanning from the concession building Hugh picked out a Thick-billed Murre on the edge of a Surf Scoter flock. Unfortunately it disappeared almost immediately but a couple of hours later what was presumably the same bird was seen again by Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay and Dough Futyuma from the southside of the Point and seemed to be heading back towards the north side. Remarkably, Shai et al. saw a second Thick-billed Murre in flight from Culloden Point but we were unable to relocate it later in the afternoon.

RAZORBILL - small groups were noted from vantages at Montauk Point and Camp Hero. A dead Razorbill was also noted floating on Lake Montauk.

RED-NECKED GREBE - One was observed from Gin Beach on the east side a Montauk Inlet and three from Culloden Point.

KING EIDER - at least two females were present off the Point and third was at Ditch Plains.

HARLEQUIN DUCK - A quartet at Ditch Plains comprised two adult males, an immature male and a female.

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE - Two adults made brief appearances over the scoter flocks at Montauk Point before heading out into Block Island Sound.

PURPLE SANDPIPER - Fifteen roosting on a large bolder at Ditch Plains, two at the Montauk Inlet jetties and two on the rocks below Camp Hero.

At dusk we watched a SHORT-EARED OWL corsing over the dunes bordering Napeague Harbor and were pleasantly surprised when it stooped to dive bomb a SNOWY OWL perched on the top of a small tree.

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