Black-headed Gull and King Eider off Ditch Plains nr Montauk - 14 Feb 2010

The combination of a brisk and chilly wind and bright sunshine made for less than idea ocean viewing off Montauk Point (Suffolk Co.) this morning. Shortly after 8 am, I scoped from the restaurant overlook for a half hour but only managed 8 RAZORBILLS and a couple of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. The only other birds of note were four American Wigeon and a lone Brant that nudged around the rocks below the overlook.

Things were a better off Ditch Plains (east of Montauk Village) with at least 22 Black-legged Kittiwakes and 60 or more Bonaparte's Gulls. The behavior of the gulls suggested they were feeding over Razorbills and after watching for while, I saw three of the alcids pick up and fly a few yards before flopping down into the choppy sea. An adult BLACK-HEADED GULL flying west long the surf line with a Bonaparte's made for a pleasant surprise, as did a female KING EIDER in Cavett's Cove - this requires a half mile hike east along the beach. A few PURPLE SANDPIPERS were on the weed covered rocks. Small numbers of Razorbills and kittiwakes were evident from a number of vantages along the south shore between Montauk and Amagansett and I suspect there are good numbers some distance offshore. Oddly, this was a day for Horned Grebe to stretch their wings - I saw at least 12 individuals in flight. As a nocturnal migrant, it is only once in a while that one sees Horned Grebe fly and more than once I've been momentarily baffled by the white secondaries and long foot projection of such birds.

Unfortunately, there was no repeat of the afternoon alcid flight from yesterday. A 45 min watch from Amagansett turned up a paltry four birds. Late in the afternoon, Hugh McGuinness and I counted 9 COMMON MERGANSERS in the patches of open water on Hook Pond in East Hampton as we looked through the roosting geese. A young male Northern Harrier made several circuits of the pond.

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