Seawatch – 15 December 2014

"Well it happened. A lot quicker than I was expecting too! Just the night before I was telling folks at the venerable Cape May CBC party that I was predicting it would be late this week that the magic number would be hit. Boy, was I wrong again! I will say that predicting flights at Avalon is maddeningly impossible and, daresay, rather humbling. But yes, Tom had been counting most of the day and we whittled away at the count-down. At 12:12 pm a flock of Black Scoters went winging by and the 3rd bird in the flock, a sweet-faced hen went zipping by the seawatch with the honors of being the one millionth bird tallied this season! It was a great moment and several of our core seawatch aficionados were on hand to help out. Much carousing and hugging occurred and Michael O'Brien is a wicked shot with a champagne cork! But it didn't stop there, scoters kept flying for a while and over the course of the day, 20 thousand birds went by. It's pretty absurd that scoters are flying in such big numbers this late into the season, but so it goes. Probably making up for the fact that if you remember from earlier posts in the season, it was actually a pretty delayed start to the flight this year. It's almost a little surprising we hit a million, considering the slow start and the lack of any truly huge flight days, but starting in late October we just got into a prolonged run of 10-30 thousand bird days. Numbers add up and Tom and I just kept identifying and tallying birds, and lo and behold: a million waterbirds flew by. In case you weren't aware, this is only the second time this has happened– Ken Berhens (co-author of the Peterson's Guide to Seawatching) cruised over a million birds in 2007. As a buddy of mine was mentioning, it is staggering to think about the movement of that much biomass. Migration is truly amazing. I am a lucky person to get a chance to witness it as I do. "  – S.H.

[Black Scoters. Photo by Kevin Karlson.]

[Primary counter Skye Haas (left) and swing counter Tom Reed. Photo by Kevin Karlson.]

Observation time:  0656 – 1641
Observers:  Tom Reed, Skye Haas

Species counted:
Canada Goose – 3
Brant – 19
American Black Duck – 3
Greater Scaup – 16
Lesser Scaup – 1
Common Eider – 3
Surf Scoter – 810
White-winged Scoter – 17
Black Scoter – 7,599
Surf/Black Scoter – 8,629
scoter, sp. – 1,586
Long-tailed Duck – 54
Bufflehead – 1
Red-breasted Merganser – 26
Red-throated Loon – 1,125
Common Loon – 5
Horned Grebe – 6
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Northern Gannet – 41
Double-crested Cormorant – 45
Great Cormorant – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 117
Herring Gull – 129
Great Black-backed Gull – 7

Day Total:  20,246
Season Total:  1,003,072

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