White-fronts and Cacklers on Further Lane and major Razorbill flight - 10 Jan 2010

Douglas Futuyma and Karen Rubinstein provided excellent accounts of the uncommon geese frequenting the one remaining field on Further Lane in East Hampton (Suffolk Co., NY). Yesterday we watched 4 first-winter GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (little or no barring on bellies) and a single well-marked adult. Interestingly, the two Greater White-fronts that were here on Saturday were both adults! Thus, there must be at least 6, perhaps even 7, white-fronts in the area. I wonder how many are on Long Island at the moment? Just before sundown, the 4 youngsters were on the Oceanview Farm field just east of the village of Amagansett. This is just beyond the IGA supermarket on the north side of Route 27. Although there are sometimes a few Canada Geese or gulls here, this is the first time I've ever seen anything newsworthy. Whilst I watched, the geese were spooked by the LIRR train that runs along the back of the field and they flew back to Further Lane, landing on the partly obscured field between the lane and the ocean.

I spent much of the morning looking at waterfowl elsewhere. For the most part, the fields were gooseless due to hunting pressure but there were some 3,000+ on the ocean off Sagaponack. I spent a good deal of time going through these but could not come up with anything different. Shorts Pond on Scuttlehole Lane (Bridgehampton) was disappointing with less than a hundred geese, 11 SNOW GEESE and one Ruddy Duck. I noted that the Snow Geese here and off Further Lane are all adults. Does this mean that Greater Snow Geese had a poor nesting season this year? Does anyone have a sense of the adult to first-year ratio at Jamaica Bay?

After hearing about Doug Futuyma's many good finds out at Montauk Point, I zipped off in the that direction before the light gave out. A beautiful 1st winter KUMLEIN'S ICELAND GULL was at Lazy Point in Napeague and an adult male KING EIDER was floating with a small group of Common Eiders at Ditch Plains, where I also noted an adult BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE and 26 PURPLE SANDPIPERS. At Montauk Inlet, I stumbled on a 1st basic NELSON'S GULL (Herring x Glaucous hybrid), likely the bird found by Shai Mitra on Fort Pond during in the Christmas Bird Count. Doug, Mike Cooper and Vicki Bustamante all saw the 2nd winter Kumlein's Iceland Gull around the mouth of the inlet (seems to prefer the west side) and have commented on its unusually dark tail band. Critical study of other features still place this striking bird within the Kumlein's spectrum.

In an earlier posting Doug Futuyma (Stony Brook, NY) wrote: This morning, I did a seawatch at Montauk Point (sheltered from strong wind by the restaurant) from 7:10 to 9:50, with several short breaks. The weather was clear and cold (low to mid 20's); visibility beyond a few hundred yards was seriously compromised by therrmal distortion due to the very cold air.

Highlights of this watch were an approximate count of 120 RAZORBILLS that could be identified with confidence, plus at least 130 distant 'large alcids' that were presumably mostly Razorbills. Almost all were moving northward; some small groups alighted on the water, but seemed generally to take flight after a short while. I saw at least 35 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, some of which were very close; a considerable number of distant gulls, obscured by thermal distortion, were also probably Kittiwakes, based on jizz and
behavior. The numbers of both of these species can probably be augmented by some of those seen by Mike Cooper and members of Great South Bay Audubon, who were present for at least an hour, Large numbers of BONAPARTE'S GULLS were visible at all times, numbering in the hundreds; among them was one adult BLACK-HEADED GULL that flew northward. Fair numbers of all three Scoters and of Common EIders were present, but conspicuously scarce were Northern Gannet (2), Red-throated Loon (3), and Common Loon (3). (Common Loons were abundant at several other sites, e.g. Gin Beach.) I saw Common Eiders at every saltwater stop in the Montauk area.

A drake HARLEQUIN DUCK was on Lake Montauk at the north end, and another was at Ditch Plains. On the beach just west of the west jetty at Lake Montauk inlet, the second-winter ICELAND GULL reported yesterday by Angus Wilson, was present. Near the south end of Lake Montauk were ca. 60 Common Goldeneye and ca. 50 Greater Scaup.

Among the Canada Geese on the field at Further Lane (Easthampton) were 5 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE that Karen and Barbara Rubenstein were looking at when I arrived. Angus Wilson arrived soon afterward, and after considerable scrutiny he located a compact group of 7 CACKLING GEESE that were well hidden behind a dense flock of Canadas. These birds, presumably the same ones he reported yesterday, soon joined the steady exodus of Canadas toward the northeast.

An adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was on the ice on Lake Agawam in Southampton. The ducks on Halsey Neck Pond included ca. 11 Redhead and >100 Lesser Scaup; also 2 Pied-billed Grebes.

Stops at Culloden Point, Fort Pond Bay, Lazy Point (Napeague), Georgica Pond, and Mecox Bay (west side) yielded only common species.

Karen Rubinstein (East Hampton) followed: Searching for the 2 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE reported yesterday by Angus Wilson, my sister Barbara and I went to the Further Lane field in East Hampton around 11:00 AM Sunday. First one, then a second goose revealed its orange legs. Wanting better views, we waited and searched for the CACKLING GEESE. As the flock began to move around after about an hour, we found 4 GWFG together and shortly afterward a 5th GWFG a, a bit further away. The 6 SNOW GEESE were also still present.

We did not find the CACKLING GEESE, but around 20 minutes after we left, Angus and Doug Futuyma, who had joined us by then along Further Lane, did see them.