Sea Watch Wednesday December 15, 2010

Whew, it was a real scorcher up at Avalon today. The downright balmy (or tolerable, as Steve put it more aptly) temperatures made for some interesting sights along Townsend's Inlet:

The 6 Buoy was insulated from the cold ice.

And speaking of ice, that's not (although I suppose it once was) a water droplet on the tip of this Herring Gull's bill

However, if you could tolerate the frigid temperatures (as about two visitor's did), today's diverse waterbird flight that you would have seen was actually really enjoyable. Species were tallied across the board, with decent numbers of dabbling ducks (including two Gadwall, eight American Wigeon, and a flock of 31 (!) Northern Pintail), a good mixed Goose flight (over 3,400 individuals), and a good variety of diving ducks, including 2 Common Goldeneye, 4 Redhead (as they continue their abnormally good showing this fall), and the first Canvasbacks (a flock of 10 to boot) recorded at the Seawatch this season. There was even a late Black Skimmer to boot!

This young Black Skimmer (missing either and inner primary or an outer secondary) flew circuits around the jetty for a a bit before taking up residence on said jetty.

"Nice Can(v)s!" is surely what Steve would have said if he were present for the flyby of these 10 Canvasbacks this afternoon. Unfortunately this not-very-well-lit photo was the only one I was able to snap of them, but fortunately Canvasbacks have a very distinctive shape: note the long sloping head and bill which separates this species from all other Aythya.

Two other standouts that jump to mind were the Red-necked Grebe which plopped down on the water by the ice-encrusted 6-Buoy, and an adult Little Gull (seen twice) associating with the horde of Bonaparte's Gulls hanging out around the bar. Karl Lukens made a successful twitch for the latter in the early afternoon, but the bird vanished after that.

In the meantime the raft of mixed sea ducks in the inlet is really building up, and now contains at least 34 Common Eider, several White-winged Scoters, and a bunch of singing Long-tailed Ducks and Black Scoters amid the throngs of Surf Scoters. There are also scattered Horned Grebes and Common and Red-throated Loons.

**As a sidenote, count period for the Cape May County Christmas Bird Count begins tomorrow (actually in about an hour and a half, why am I still awake?), so if you haven't been out birding lately because of the one-or-two degree temperature drop now you have yet another reason to get back out there and look at some birds!

Total Individuals counted: 6,019

Location: Avalon Seawatch
Observation date: 12/15/10
Number of species: 44

Snow Goose 1052
Brant (Atlantic) 17
Canada Goose 2355
goose sp. 126
Gadwall 2
American Wigeon 8
American Black Duck 50
Mallard 39
Northern Shoveler 1
Northern Pintail 31
Canvasback 10
Redhead 4
Greater Scaup 19
Lesser Scaup 5
Greater/Lesser Scaup 15
Aythya sp. 9

Common Eider 34
Surf Scoter 460
White-winged Scoter 52
Black Scoter 75
Surf/Black Scoter 33
scoter sp. 120
Bufflehead 7
Common Goldeneye 2
Red-breasted Merganser 76
duck sp. 113
Red-throated Loon 89
Common Loon 9
Horned Grebe 2
Red-necked Grebe 1
Northern Gannet 4
Double-crested Cormorant 29
Great Cormorant 1

Turkey Vulture 2
Bald Eagle 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Ruddy Turnstone 3
Sanderling 3
Purple Sandpiper 80
Bonaparte's Gull 469
Little Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 437
Herring Gull 73
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Black Skimmer 1

Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
European Starling X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 8
Northern Cardinal 1
House Sparrow X

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