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AVALON SEAWATCH UPDATE – October 21st to 27th

The scoters have arrived!  Massive scoter movement dominated this week, culminating in a 20,000+ bird day, a 35,000 bird day, two 40,000+ bird days, and a 50,000 bird day; back-to-back, in that order!  Naturally, Tom and I are quite exhausted from counting such crazy numbers, but here is a short summary of the day-to-day movements.

October 21st was the slowest day of the week due to thick fog, despite good southeast winds.  Barely 1000 birds were counted.  The 22nd continued the good winds and lacked fog, and an uptick in movement with 6000 birds was noted.  Surf Scoters greatly dominated Black Scoters, with 3833 to only 62, respectively, a trend that would continue for the week.  Other than that, Laughing Gulls were noticeably moving with 1660 birds heading south.

On the 23rd the floodgates began to open, with over 15,000 Surf Scoters and nearly 4000 Black Scoters.  The first Long-tailed Duck of the season was seen mixed in with a scoter flock, as were some very early Razorbill.  The third Brown Booby of the season, a first-year bird, was seen foraging off the Sea Isle/Ocean City area for a while before heading south.  Additionally, a good handful of all the gull and tern species were moving south, as were six Parasitic Jaeger.

A few Brown Pelicans heading south.

The 24th brought a massive 35,000 birds, dominated primarily by Black Scoters with just under 15,000, and only almost 9000 Surf Scoters.  At the same time, over 9000 Double-crested Cormorants heading down over Sea Isle City.  Three Redhead, the first of the season, were also quite notable.

The 25th was a crazy day, with strong 15 mph northeast winds that blew the birds past me at very high speeds.  Another 12,000 Surf Scoter zipped by along with nearly 12,000 Black Scoters. At the same time, over 13,000 Double-crested Cormorants zoomed by in high and distant large flocks.  I can assure you that keeping track of all of these things at the same time is quite the challenge, but you get tend to get into a groove and the time flies by. Two Great Cormorants and a nice assortment of dabbling ducks was also nice.

Flock of Double-crested Cormorants overhead.

The 26th continued the craziness with a whopping 21,000 Surf Scoters. This is the highest single-day Surf Scoter count since 2014. Trying to keep up, Black Scoters put up a total of 12,000. A solid 389 Green-winged Teal, 118 American Black Ducks, and 211 Northern Pintail added to the day’s diversity of flight.  The 27th brought a mere 18,000 Black and 16,000 Surf Scoters, as well as nearly 5000 too-distant-to-tell scoters.  7000 Double-crested Cormorants also flew by along with over 786 Northern Gannets.  This day was also the loon peak up to this point in the season, with 85 Red-throated Loons and 216 Common Loons.

Overall, this week was a more traditional late-October week, full of Surf Scoters and big numbers.  The past few years have had far smaller peak scoter days, and that peak was in early November.  So will we have a second peak next week?  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading, and check back next week!

-David Weber

New Jersey Audubon