Influx of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and offshore seabird rarities - 11 & 12 Sep 2010

On Saturday (11 Sep) Anthony Collerton found two AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS on the southern pasture in Deep Hollow. The birds, a molting adult and an juvenile, were still present on Sunday (12 Sep). At Montauk Point, an estimated 3000 Common Terns and 500 Laughing Gulls were snatching small bait fish pushed to the surface by Striped Bass and Bluefish. Most of the birds too distant to study but inspection of closer birds revealed a small number of ROSEATE TERNS, FORSTERS TERNS and a minimum of 16 BLACK TERNS. The COMMON EIDER flock rafting just north of the restaurant has grown to 62 birds and were joined by 2 male WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS. The BLACK TERN flock in Napeague Bay [Harbor] has shrunk to only 21 birds, 18 of which were juveniles. On Rita's Pond (much reduced in size) featured 13 LESSER YELLOWLEGS and a female BLUE WINGED TEAL.

On Fort Pond Bay in Montauk, a casual check of the 50-60 gulls roosting on the beach in front of the Navy Beach Restaurant revealed 7 (seven) LESSER BLACK-BACK GULLS: four full adults, a 4th summer type, a 3rd summer type and a 1st summer! The adult ('Larry') was on station by the channel between Lazy Point and Hick's Island. Observers elsewhere on Long Island have reported multiple Lessers at various coastal spots. Does this indicate a fresh influx from Iceland which has the nearest sizeable nesting colonies that we know of?

Several MERLINS were making their presence known over the weekend. Anthony Collerton saw three on Saturday: one at Lazy Point, another in 'downtown' Montauk and one over Rita's Horse Farm. One Sunday, I saw one zipping down the beach at Fort Pond Bay headed towards Montauk Manor and another (?) harrassing a flock Cedar Waxwings over Eddy Ecker Park (Rod's Valley) where a male WILSON'S WARBLER flitted about in the bushes by the entrance.

Evidently a trickle of passerine migrants came through the area over the weekend. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak spent Sunday on my feeder in Springs (new for the yard list) together with a female PURPLE FINCH. Anthony Collerton also noted a grosbeak in his yard in Northwest Woods together with MAGNOLIA WARBLER, EASTERN PEWEE and GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER. A COMMON NIGHTHAWK was was hunting over my house on Sunday night, another new bird for my yard list. Large numbers of TREE SWALLOWS have been noted in several places. There must be 10s if not 100s of thousands on the South Fork alone.

EASTERN SCREECH OWLS are being quite vocal at the moment. Luke Ormand has been hearing one on Long Neck Blvd in Flanders and a bird near Hugh McGuinness' house on Long Pond near Sag Harbor has been calling since 1 August. I've also heard a bird calling from various spots near the junction of King's Point Road and Hog Creek Lane in Springs.


On Saturday (11 Sep 2010), John Shemilt, Keegan Corcoran and I went fishing over the shelf edge. Unfortunately several days of persistent winds from the north seemed to pushed most of the birds (and fish for that matter) out of the area. As consequence we came up with very low totals of the commoner stuff (49 Wilson's Storm-Petrels, 1 Cory's Shearwater and 1 Greater Shearwater) and were surprised by the number of 'inshore' species (gulls and Common Terns) that were well offshore. However, we still found some really neat stuff. A few miles east of Block Canyon, four young SPERM WHALES put on a superb show, logging on the surface for a long time and making shallow dives. At least one animal repeatedly lifted its huge bulbous head out of the water perhaps to get a better look at us. A pod of 20 or so BOTTLENOSED DOLPHINS came into to the boat as we watched the whales. Several other whales sighted on the other side of Block Canyon might also have been Sperm Whales but we couldn't get up near enough to make a firm ID.

As we worked west across Block Canyon we found a scattering of AUDUBON'S SHEARWATERS picking at clumps of sargassum weed and got nice views of a RED PHALAROPE doing the same. The most significant sighting, however, was a WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL which skipped a few times across the water and then promptly disappeared among the waves. Very frustrating! We zigzagged up and down looking for it in hopes of better views and photographs but without luck. Just before the storm-petrel was spotted, a shoal of skipjack tuna rushed under the boat followed closely by the ominous dark missile-like shape of a marlin. A RED-NECKED PHALAROPE on the ride home was new for the day. In addition to pelagic birds we also saw a RED BAT and several landbirds including some shorebirds, an unidentified warbler and a GREAT BLUE HERON calmly flying west some 80 miles SSE of Montauk. Hopefully it just kept going and made landfall 150 miles later in central New Jersey! I was expecting lots of jaegers but no such luck. One distant bird on the 100 fathom line near where we saw the heron was the only jaeger. Likewise, I was surprised not to see a Parasitic or two harassing the terns off Montauk Point on Sunday. Perhaps the favorable winds allowed migrants passing overland from central Canada to travel right over us?

Unbeknown to us, some birders from Rhode Island ran a charter from Galilee to Block Canyon on Friday (10 Sep). They also logged reduced numbers of the commoner species but managed to photograph a BLACK-CAPPED PETREL on the east side of the outer canyon, a BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL and a juvenile LONG-TAILED JAEGER! Ample evidence of the amazing birds that might be found by anyone able to visit these fascinating areas. Hopefully next year we can figure out a way to run a similar charter from Montauk or alternatively have our friends from New England stop by to pick us up! I shall post details if this plan falls into place.

From what I hear, all the major ponds are full to the brim which is frustrating. Any news to the contrary would be appreciated. With migration in full swing, keep your eyes and ears open, and keep the reports coming in.

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