Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Razorbills! From Dry Land!

One of the best things about Cape May is that you just never know what you're going to see on any given day. Yesterday's Little Gull was a perfect case, as was today's surprise Razorbill flight in the "rips."

It started shortly before 10:30am, when the first five of 21 Razorbills winged their way south beyond my vantage point at St. Peter's. These were followed by another group of five, about 20 minutes later. Next came a group of three, which were substantially closer and briefly put down on the water to feed with the omnipresent mass of Black Scoters just offshore. A bit of time passed before another three appeared in the distance, followed by a close group of five to finish the show. Not a bad showing for a species that is notoriously difficult to see from shore in Cape May County.

This has been an excellent winter to see Razorbills from the Mid-Atlantic coast, with a massive southbound flight noted along Jersey's north shore last month, in addition to a smaller movement in mid-January. The mechanics that power movements like these aren't entirely clear, but are most likely related to a depletion of food sources to our north. And now, many of those birds are moving back north again. Today's southeast winds likely coincided with a chunk of that movement, and shifted some of the flight close enough to be seen from shore (and even pushed some birds into Delaware Bay!). Glen Davis and company reported over 100 northbound Razorbills within a few miles of the Atlantic City coastline today, as well.

If you want to get up close and personal with Razorbills (and potentially other pelagic critters), then I'd suggest signing up for See Life Paulagics' trip out of Belmar, NJ on Saturday, March 26. These trips are extremely well-run, and often feature a few familiar Cape May faces as leaders and spotters.

In the meantime, given the continued easterly winds tonight, perhaps a look at the sea tomorrow morning will reveal yet more Razorbills- or something even more surprising...

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