Monday, January 24, 2011

Pelagic birding in the New York Bight

I was fortunate to head out this weekend on the See Life Paulagics trips in the New York Bight from Belmar, New Jersey (Saturday) and Freeport, New York (Sunday). We had great sightings both days, with 3 close Humpback Whales and a Harbor Porpoise (off Belmar) and tons of alcids and unusual gulls as highlights. Over 30 Common Murres were recorded each day, and both trips found Thick-billed Murre as well. Here are some photos from the weekend.

Black-legged Kittiwakes are present in low density offshore from fall through early spring. We saw lots of them this weekend, primarily adults like this sharp-looking individual.

"Kumlien's" Iceland Gulls are uncommon along the coast, but are typically present in small numbers every year. We had highly cooperative Iceland Gulls this weekend, with an adult off Belmar and a second cycle bird off Freeport that followed the boats for hours.

Razorbills are the default large auk species near shore in the New York Bight. Their evenly keeled bodies, long tails, blocky heads with large bills, and totally white underwing coverts help identify them.

Common Murres are actually fairly common offshore in the New York Bight right now. We encountered them frequently in ones and twos, tallying over 30 each day (and another new state maximum count for NJ on Saturday!). Their largely white faces (in basic plumage), rear-heavy bodies, obvious feet, overall brownish upperparts, and oily markings on the flanks and near-body underwing coverts help separate them from Razorbills.

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