Avalon Seawatch - November 21, 2011

Upon arriving at the Seawatch this morning, I was presented with quarter-mile visibility, steady light rain and flat-calm seas. This wouldn't last long. By 9:30am, the rain moved offshore and a freshening northerly breeze quickly shooed away the fog. By 9:45am, high flocks of Red-throated Loons seemingly appeared from nowhere, and then all hell broke loose.

What would follow was something nobody could have predicted. The next seven hours each contained over 2,000 Red-throated Loons on the move, totaling 16,851 by day's end- a new single-day Seawatch record. Interestingly, the previous mark (11,214) was set just last year, and on the same date.
[A very, very, very small sample of what today's flight looked like. Photo by Sam Galick.]

Loons were everywhere over the seascape. Sometimes in tiered groups that spanned hundreds of feet vertically; sometimes in clustered lines, low over the bar; sometimes streaming high above or even behind us! On several occasions, it was possible to see hundreds of Red-throated Loons in the air at once.

And while loons stole the show today, there were other stories. About 10,000 total scoter were notable for the date, as were over 2,000 Double-crested Cormorants. Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were obviously moving during the afternoon, complementing a couple big pushes of Northern Gannets. The sky was absolutely packed with birds for several hours, showcasing autumn waterbird migration at its finest.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, today's effort was only made possible by the numerous people who stopped by to lend a hand. There was absolutely no way I could've counted everything on my own. Big, big, big thanks go to Ashley Green, Tony Leukering, Gail Dwyer, Glen Davis, Mike Crewe, Gerry & Chris Dewaghe, Tom Johnson and Melissa Roach for their assistance.

Some spillover of the loon flight might be in evidence tomorrow morning, though I can't imagine it'll even compare to what happened today. But who knows?

Brant - 4
Canada Goose - 7
Wood Duck - 2
American Wigeon - 5
American Black Duck - 59
Mallard - 4
Northern Pintail - 8
Green-winged Teal - 34
Ring-necked Duck - 2
Greater Scaup - 9
Lesser Scaup - 26
scaup, sp. - 13
Common Eider - 1
Surf Scoter - 6,042
White-winged Scoter - 56
Black Scoter - 3,396
dark-winged scoter - 903
Long-tailed Duck - 38
Bufflehead - 46
Hooded Merganser - 7
Red-breasted Merganser - 54
Red-throated Loon - 16,851
Common Loon - 81
Horned Grebe - 4
Northern Gannet - 2,824
Double-crested Cormorant - 2,399
Great Cormorant - 6
Great Blue Heron - 41
Laughing Gull - 46
Bonaparte's Gull - 42
Ring-billed Gull - 808
Herring Gull - 131
Great Black-backed Gull - 6
Forster's Tern - 16
Royal Tern - 17
Parasitic Jaeger - 2

(Total = 34,185)

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