Large alcid flight off East Hampton including Dovekies - 13 Feb 2010

There was an impressive and somewhat unexpected flight of large alcids off the south shore this afternoon, with groups of birds flying westward sometimes in fairly large groups (max. 65). Many were quite far out and thus only identifiable as large alcids, but all of the closer birds were all clearly RAZORBILLS. As indicated below, I counted more than 700 in a 1 hour sample. The one exception was a trio of tiny DOVEKIES flying together with three Razorbill. A good number of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, a species that often feeds over Razorbills, were also drifting west. Some of these birds seemed to be coming up off the water and I suspect there were considerable numbers of alcids, scoter and gulls on the water about a mile or more offshore and essentially invisible unless they took flight. Perhaps this is why there were comparatively few Razorbills off Montauk Point this morning, as per Doug Futuyma's report? Winds were from the northwest (~10-15 mph) and visibility was excellent with minimal heat shimmer. It will be interesting to know how far west the flight extended (e.g. Shinnecock Inlet, Smith Point SP or Robert Moses SP).

A 1 hour (2:15-3:15 pm) spot count from the beach in Amagansett tallied the following:

Red-throated Loon - 3
Horned Grebe - 15
Northern Gannet - 18
Common Eider - 12
Black Scoter - 10
White-winged Scoter - 360
Surf Scoter - 25
scoter sp. - 200
Red-breasted Merganser - 1
RAZORBILL (or large alcid) - 703
Herring Gull - 15
Great Black-backed Gull - 5
Ring-billed Gull - 4
Bonaparte's Gull - 59
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE - 49 (only one 1st-basic, rest ads.)

Also of note were two HARBOR PORPOISE feeding a short distance off the beach in Napeague (White Sand Motel). A Red-throated Loon was fishing with them and seeing the loon alongside emphasized just how small these porpoises are compared to dolphins. Lastly, the adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL ('Larry') continues at Lazy Point on the NW side of Napeague Harbor. There were no geese on the field at Further Lane when I passed by and nothing of note among the geese I could see on the lawns around Hook Pond.

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