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Avalon Seawatch Update – November 10

This week got off to an exceptional start, with a whopping 38,000 birds on Monday thanks to northeast winds shifting to southeast over the course of the day.  Easterly or southerly winds in early November is usually a recipe for a major flight!  Not only were there 14,000 each of both Surf and Black Scoter, but also an impressive suite of rarities: Harlequin Duck, Franklin’s Gull, and Black-legged Kittiwake, along with a Vesper Sparrow in the dunes and three mid-day migrating Black-crowned Night-Herons beyond the Bell Buoy.

The fun continued into Tuesday, with another 11,000 birds and rarities such as another Harlequin Duck, two Red-necked Grebes, a Pomarine Jaeger, and the first Razorbill of the season, as well as a late Piping Plover on the beach and a Short-eared Owl that flew in off the ocean during a rain shower.

The middle of the week was a bit slow, but boasted an excellent flight of 471 Bufflehead on Wednesday, the season high count of 1725 Green-winged Teal on Thursday along with a Pied-billed Grebe and a nice flight of over 4000 Surf Scoters.

Some of a flock of 17 Brown Pelicans escaping the cold weather!

Not unlike Monday, Saturday boasted northeast winds shifting around to southwest by the end of the day, along with a chilling cold start of 28 degrees, and with these conditions we managed the biggest day of the season (and of my entire three years as Seawatch counter): a crazy 51,685 birds.  Birds were simply everywhere, along all flight lines at every height and distance.  Luckily Tom was able to lend a hand after finishing counting Morning Flight, and Adehl (our George Myers Naturalist) was there to help count cormorants and input everything into the tablet for us.  The scoters, gannets, and loons were continuous throughout the day, while excellent numbers of dabbling ducks and gulls flew up high in the clouds, flocks of cormorants poured through, and loose flocks of Red-throated Loons would come through in waves.  It also ended up being our biggest Green-winged Teal day of the season, with 2615 birds, easily beating our total from Thursday to become the third highest Green-winged Teal day in Seawatch history (and notably on the exact same date as the second and fourth highest days).  We also had a very notable four Ruddy Ducks and 131 American Wigeon.  The only way the day could have been much better is if we had clearer conditions with increased visibility, as the temperature difference between the air and the water was such that it created a tough “heat haze” that persisted throughout the day and ended up giving us a lot of unidentified scoters and dabbling ducks.

Common Eiders

The last day of the week was nice and relaxed in comparison to our big day, and it brought with it the first push of Common Eiders (28), another Harlequin Duck and Red-necked Grebe, and 7000 more scoter.

 

This week was our peak week of the season, and while we may not have another 50,000 bird day, we still have hundreds of thousands of birds left to count in the remaining six weeks!  There are many gannets and loons in the future, so make sure to stop on by!

David

New Jersey Audubon