Montauk area gulls - 21 Feb 2010

With a brisk WNW wind and brilliant sunshine I ended up doing a lot of beach walking today. There were at least 450 Bonaparte's Gulls working along the ocean between Montauk Village (Suffolk Co.) and Ditch Plains. Among them, I found an adult BLACK-HEADED GULL, likely the same bird I saw out here last weekend. It was feeding in the surf off the middle of Shadmore State Park. This winter I've noticed a marked paucity of first-year birds, today I counted only 14 (3%). A priori, this would suggest a poor 2009 breeding season but I know that the ratio of adults to young varies with location so it seems unsafe to draw conclusions from this one area. It would be interesting to know if others have observed something similar elsewhere?

Otherwise there wasn't too much to see. I even slogged all the way along the sand to the Warhol Estate but could not find a King Eider or a Harlequin Duck. The only birds of note along in this section were three RAZORBILL (a pitiful number this winter) and 12 PURPLE SANDPIPER, roosting on the large triangular bolder east of the Ditch Plains Trailer Park.

The 2 wintering adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were at their usual stations on Fort Pond Bay (rocks at the western corner) and on Lazy Point in Napeague. At Montauk Inlet, there were 3 KUMLEIN'S ICELAND GULLS, two first winter birds and a second winter. Lone Great Cormorants were on one of the jetty towers at the inlet and on the ice of Oyster Pond.

I spent a lot of time looking for vultures but saw none - too windy perhaps? Likewise I was unable to find the Great Egret that Carl Starace and party found at Napeague yesterday. The egret is a darn good bird out here in February - I haven't seen one since November.

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