Seawatch - 26 October 2014

Observation time: 0620 - 1820
Observer: Skye Haas

Species counted:
Canada Goose - 23
Brant - 56
Gadwall - 4
American Wigeon - 24
American Black Duck - 13
Mallard - 2
Northern Shoveler - 2
Northern Pintail - 9
Green-winged Teal - 19
Duck sp. - 57
Common Eider - 1
Eider sp. - 1
Surf Scoter - 1,334
White-winged Scoter - 2
Black Scoter - 2,076
Dark-winged Scoter - 438
Ruddy Duck - 44
Long-tailed Duck - 4
Red-throated Loon - 21
Common Loon - 151
Horned Grebe - 9
Pied-billed Grebe - 1
Northern Gannet - 2,388
Brown Pelican - 6
Double-crested Cormorant - 7,936
Great Cormorant - 6
Great Blue Heron - 43
Great Egret - 29
Laughing Gull - 367
Bonaparte's Gull - 272
Ring-billed Gull - 84
Herring Gull - 32
Great Black-backed Gull - 12
Caspian Tern - 3
Forster's Tern - 166
Royal Tern - 44
Black Skimmer - 4
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Black-bellied Plover - 61
Semipalmated Plover - 7
American Oystercatcher - 41
Sanderling - 800
Dunlin - 150
Ruddy Turnstone - 10
Red Knot - 20
Dowitcher sp. - 2
Purple Sandpiper - 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 4
Calidris sp. - 32

Total: 16,814

A note from Skye:
And I thought there were a lot of Gannets yesterday! The first few hours of the seawatch today could be best described as a river of sulids over the ocean, which as I now type it, seems like some sort of zen birding koan... But anyhow, it was yet another wonderful day at Avalon as the birds were non-stop all day. And it wasn't just gannets either! Another strong Common Loon flight was recorded, and ducks continue to dribble through. A possible female King Eider flew by but was too quick for me to identify, and even though it was a just a small flock, I really enjoyed a late afternoon look at a mixed flock of Pintail, Gadwall and Wigeon; I've always really enjoyed seeing those species in a migratory watch setting. Though we have had a couple good scoter flights this month, both Tom and I speculate that there is something major brewing with the scoters as their numbers have been low so far this season, and to have two "meh" scoter days in a row in the last week of October could mean a really insane flight day in our near future! 

Another great feature to the day was a strong gull movement. It was the first real influx of Ring-billed Gulls and even a decent amount of Herring Gulls were deemed "migrants". Herring and Black-backed Gulls are two of the hardest species to tell if they are actual migrants or just meandering about the waterfront; often their inclusion on a waterbird count total depends on a judgement call on the part of the counter. We try our best but sometimes it takes a few flocks of birds going by before you catch on that there are gulls actually migrating! However, more easy to call migrants were the tight flocks of the always delightful Bonaparte's Gulls that flew by Avalon. One of my more favorite birds, I frequently think about what strange lives these creatures live- spending part of their life cycle nesting in moss-lined stick nests placed in spruce trees in the boreal forest! 

Notable due to its tardiness in migration, a Bank Swallow flew by mid-afternoon. Once again, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin and many kinglets were moving down the coastline filling the Jersey shores with the sounds of my North Woods homeland. Though migration is a perilous journey and as incredible of a life strategy it can be, not all make their destination. We were amazed and a touch horrified when Taffy Mortimer Jefferson, the Laughing Gull mascot of the this year's Seawatch snagged a Kinglet right out of the air in front of us without even opening his wings as he dozed on the seawall. Great reflexes there Taffy!

Bonaparte's Gulls. [Photo by Skye Haas.]

An odd couple - Common Eider and Pied-billed Grebe.
 [Photo by Skye Haas.]

Taffy the Laughing Gull with a mouth full of Kinglet.
[Photo by Skye Haas.]

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