Saturday, October 27, 2007

Record Scoter Flight, and read the Birding Forecast!

Friday's hawkwatch was being conducted from under the pavilion overlooking the ocean/bay at Cape May Point State Park, and when I wandered up there Jessie Barrie asked if I had experienced any of the amazing seabird flight that was underway. I hadn't, other than the loons and cormorants over the Beanery in the morning, and was startled to learn it was building up to a record single-day scoter count.

You have to stand on the benches or picnic tables in the pavilion to see offshore, a bit annoying, but on jumping up for a look, in no time a group of scoters came by. . .except group doesn't quite do justice to 1,600 in about one minute's looking. Anna Harris remarked that there were a ton of scoters - at an average weight of a little over 2 pounds for the dark-winged scoters, it actually was more like a ton and a half!

We'll have the results from Friday's flight up on View from the Field soon, but at last word the total count at Avalon was 120,000 or more. Almost all of that was scoters. Interestingly, Avalon had almost no cormorants, I hear, but cormorants in droves were seen migrating just inland by many observers, perhaps pushed there by the northeast winds.

We'll be birding in the rain today (Saturday) but I suggest that everyone read David LaPuma's birding forecast. David uses the word "epic" in conjunction with Sunday's potential, and looking at the way the approaching cold front is shown passing on the NOAA site Saturday night (fast and hard), I agree - the only thing that would slow a big flight would be if the winds are too high Saturday night.

Looking at the weather radar loop just now (the hour between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m.), I noticed three small blobs well east of the rain that reappearred on the screen three times, each time a bit further south. Huge flocks of migrating scoters still moving along our coast, shifted farther offshore to avoid the rain?

Different folks have different reactions to the Seawatch and seawatching in general. Often the birds are distant and hard to identify, which is frustrating and turns some people off. But the drama is huge - over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND birds migrating over a storm-driven sea, birds that have left their nesting grounds in northern Quebec and Labrador and are headed for wintering areas off the North American coast.

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