Thick-billed Murre and sea duck, Ditch Plains/Montauk - 28 Feb 2009

This afternoon, an adult basic THICK-BILLED MURRE was on the ocean off Ditch Plains, just east of Montauk Village (Suffolk Co.) on the South Fork of Long Island. This area (Google Maps 41.0387, -71.9145) can be viewed from access points at the end of Otis Road or the parking lot off Ditch Plains Road (East Deck Motel). The murre favored the outer edge of the surf zone near where the sandy beach gives over to rocks. The human surfers also favored this area and twice I noted the murre paddling around (but alas not hanging ten) between them. It seemed to spend a lot of time underwater and sometimes vanished entirely for extended periods. The murre is still in basic plumage with a neat triangle of white on the throat. From the proportions of the bill it looks like an adult to me. Other birds at Ditch plains included the continuing female KING EIDER, three HARLEQUIN DUCKS (further east along the rocky stretch) and twenty-one PURPLE SANDPIPERS. There were in excess of 100 Bonaparte's Gulls feeding in the surf or among the rocks but I could not find any other species of small gull amongst them.

At Montauk Point, a drake KING EIDER was with the main Surf Scoter flock (off restaurant and SE of lighthouse) and three female KING EIDER were directly south of the Camp Hero Overlook. A fourth HARLEQUIN DUCK (immature male) was at the western end of Camp Hero with some Common Goldeneye. At Montauk Inlet, 2 GREAT CORMORANTS were roosting on the jetty towers and the 1st cy KUMLEIN'S (ICELAND) GULL came into the inlet following the 'Viking Superstar' which had been offshore fishing. As expected for the beginning of March, loon and grebe numbers are climbing with some birds beginning the molt into alternate plumage. A few Common Loons were already quite advanced. I also noticed a color-banded Common Loon feeding in the inlet. In Napeague, 'Larry' the LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL continues at Lazy Point, favoring the narrow channel between the mainland and Hicks Island.

THICK-BILLED MURRE - 1 ad. basic. (Ditch Plains)
KING EIDER - 5 (1 male and 3 fem. Montauk Pt, 1 fem. Ditch Plains)
HARLEQUIN DUCK - 4 (2 males and 1 fem. Ditch Plains, 1 imm. male Camp Hero)
Canvasback - 15 (Fort Pond, Montauk)
Ring-necked Duck - 3 (Fort Pond, Montauk)
Common Loon - 294
Red-throated Loon - 12
RED-NECKED GREBE - 2 (Culloden Point)
Horned Grebe - 68
Bonaparte's Gull - 150+
KUMLEIN'S (ICELAND) GULL - 1 (1st cy. Montauk Inlet)
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL - 1 (Larry, Lazy Pt, Napeague)

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