Flyby Thick-billed Murre off Montauk Point - 8 Mar 2010

Yesterday, I seawatched from Montauk Point (Suffolk Co.) for a couple of hours (Sun 7 March, 7:11-9:15 am). Numbers were low but the diversity was good. Strong sunshine made the viewing to the south difficult.

The highlight was a THICK-BILLED MURRE that came round the point from the south and headed out over Block Island Sound. This was at 7:22 am. The solid dark hood was immediately apparent but it was only until the bird was directly east of me that I could see its short bill, seemingly unmarked underwings/flanks and dumpy profile. The upperparts looked similar in color to the Razorbills but truthfully, the light was probably not good enough to distinguish black from dark brown. One thing I noticed was the slightly slower cadence of the wing beats compared to a Razorbill that followed essentially the same track a few minutes later. Altogether, I counted 46 RAZORBILLS, with a maximum of 20 together in a flock that plopped down on the water over the reef. There were 11 additional 'large alcids' that were too distant and poorly lit to identify safely.

Other birds of note were a 1st-year BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE, growing numbers of LONG-TAILED DUCK (otherwise scarce from this spot) and several flights of CANADA GEESE (>600) and ATLANTIC BRANT (74 total in six flocks) headed NE towards RI and MA. Several flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds took flight from the point and headed out over the sound. One exception in this migration pattern was an American Crow that I watched for a while as it made a beeline from Block Island west toward the Point. Once it made land fall, the crow turned north and followed the coastline with what seemed like genuine purpose (a messenger crow perhaps?).

At Montauk Inlet, 6 GREAT CORMORANT (5 ad., 1 juv.) were on the jetty towers, 5 RAZORBILL passed offshore and a 1st-basic KUMLEIN'S GULL was roosting with other gulls on the spit just inside the harbor. An immature RED-SHOULDERED HAWK was soaring low over the trees on the west side of Fort Pond and 2 REDHEAD were with Ring-necked Ducks on Tuthill's Pond. The adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL continues the rocks on the west side of Fort Pond Bay. Eleven PURPLE SANDPIPERS were on the rocks east of Ditch Plains. Common Eider were present at every stop but I could not find a King among them.

Overall, numbers of Red-throated and Common Loons were down compared to the past few weeks but HORNED GREBES (total 155) made a good showing, typical of early March. A couple of weeks ago there were Bonaparte's Gulls all along the ocean front but these seem to have moved on.

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