Unprecedented Razorbill flight off Montauk Point - 24 Jan 2010

Observers gathered at Montauk Point this morning were treated to an absolutely remarkable flight of RAZORBILLS. They were quite literally the most numerous bird on view, with the peak numbers passing between 7:30 and 8:30 AM. Tom Burke tried to keep a continuous count but began to flag at 2,500! Using a clicker I tallied 1,344 passing through my fixed scope view in a 20 min count and have thumb cramp sto prove it. All told, we estimated a minimum of 4,000 Razorbills, quite possibly more.

As I said, they were the most common bird. Small flocks were coming round the point from the south, but the majority seemed to be traveling towards west across Block Island Sound and then turning north to pass in front of the restaurant overlook. Significant numbers also followed a more direct line from the north end of Block Island towards Shagwong Point. Many birds passed right in front of the overlook giving superb views, sometimes landing in the water. For most of the time the light was very good and I feel confident that the vast majority of the birds could be accurately identified to species. In other words, we weren't missing other alcid species.

With so many Razorbills it was not surprising that the numbers of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES were equally special. Patricia Lindsay took charge of the tally and I believe she settled on something like 300 (!!), the vast majority (>90%) being adults. Other species seemed incidental by comparison but included a gleaming white GLAUCOUS GULL (2nd basic) roosting on the beach below the restaurant overlook, and the usual assortment of loons and seaduck. Two, possibly three, adult male KING EIDER were on the southside of the Point, as viewed from Camp Hero. Another male KING EIDER was off Ditch Plains. Two ICELAND GULLS and a handful of Razorbills (actually 45 or more) were off Montauk Inlet, the gulls frequenting the beaches on the west side of the inlet. Single adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were in their usual spots on Fort Pond Bay in Montauk and Lazy Point in Napeague. Whilst counting waterfowl on Napeague Harbor, Hugh McGuinness and I picked up a single RED KNOT (very notable on the East End in winter) amongst a flock of Dunlin.

The goose flock on Further Lane was much depleted when we stopped there in the early afternoon and we could not pick out any unusual species. More geese were on the ice at Hook Pond along with 26 COMMON MERGANSER.

Co-observers of the morning flight included Hugh McGuinness, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Patricia Lindsay, Doug Futuyma, Andrew Baksh, Dave Klauber and Seth Ausubel. A very exciting morning and I wouldn't be surprised if I've forgotten some noteworthy sightings.

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