New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March Pelagic with a little help from above!

Rhode Island Pelagic March 24, 2012-

     When you think of a March pelagic trip on Block Island Sound off the southern New England coast, a snappy cold morning comes to mind. March in New England (as it is told) usually comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. However this year, it came in like a lamb and is going out the same way. I can remember the lion of March being very winter-like complete with frigid cold and biting winds; and going out the same way! But not last week, it seemed more like late April. 

     Last week, just about every day the temperatures were in the high seventies (eighty on a few days), that was a bit too warm for me for a pelagic trip in March. With the unseasonably warm air temps came two problems. The ocean was still on the cold side (although warmer by March standards), and mixing with the warm air meant fog! That is exactly what happened every morning last week. The fog started on Wednesday March 14 when I went looking for the Black-headed Gulls at Scarborough Beach ) and was present just about every morning leading up to the trip. The other problem being the warming ocean water temps, may have forced the Dovekies to move east and north looking for cooler waters.

     The weather forecast predicted a front with rain moving into our area for the weekend. With the front came easterly winds, which would be welcomed.  East winds would bring in cooler temps from the ocean; that meant no fog! There was also a question of rain on Saturday, but eventually was updated for Sunday. The email from Carlos Pedro the trip host and organizer came; it was a go!

    In December, I received an email from Kris Winiarski, a biologist from URI who has been conducting marine bird surveys over the past three years as part of a marine spatial planning exercise in Rhode Island’s near shore and offshore waters funded by the state to streamline offshore wind farm development in both state and federal waters (Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan  ( 

      He saw my blog reports highlighting alcids in Block Island Sound which prompted him to contact me.  From July 2009 to August 2010  Kris’ team at URI conducted ship-based surveys on eight offshore grids across their 4,000km2 study area.  Kris explained that it wasn’t possible to survey every square foot of the area due to the relatively high cost of doing avian surveys in the offshore environment, although the eight grids covered the spectrum of available habitat in Block Island and Rhode Island Sound.

      Kris further explained that since environmental variables such as water depth, distance to land, bottom slope, and fine scale hydrographic data collected by satellites such as sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, water turbidity and distance to temperature fronts for Block Island and Rhode Island Sound were available they could explore species specific relationships with these environmental variables in the areas they had directly surveyed and use those findings to fairly accurately predict species distribution and abundance across the broader area which includes both areas directly surveyed and those areas not directly surveyed.
     Kris sent me a map/chart with sightings from the ship-based surveys of those eight grids conducted in the winter of 2009-2010 which proved helpful for searching for alcids off the Rhode Island coast.  The map highlights the locations of wintering alcids in Block Island Sound  The color key on the chart shows: Blue = Razorbills, Orange = Common Murres, Magenta = Puffins and Green = Dovekies.

      They generally surveyed each one of those eight sawtooth grids about one time per month.   For example all the puffin observations were either just before Thanksgiving or mid to late April.

     The avian research team at URI is still conducting avian surveys in Block Island and Rhode Island Sound, but by September of 2010 they had transitioned to doing their surveys by small aircraft. Currently Kris and one other observer surveys twenty four transect lines approximately once a month that run north/south from Westerly to the Elizabeth Island and Martha’s Vineyard out approximately 40 miles from the mainland.

     The aerial surveys allow them to cover their whole study area in about four hours, where speed really limited them with the ship surveys (a ship can only go about ten knots on survey vs one hundred knots in the plane), but with that gain in coverage they lost some ability to classify to the species level especially with the alcids where it can be difficult to discern between Razorbills, Murres, Puffins and Dovekies even at their low survey altitude of 250’.  From the airplane many sightings become alcid species rather than to a defined species which was generally possible with sightings from the ship. 

     Kris explained that especially with alcids sometimes species identification from the aircraft is much easier based on the number or layout of the small flocks (Razorbills tend to be in longer strings where Murres and Dovekies are generally in smaller groups or alone) rather than seeing detail in individuals possible with binoculars from the ship.


     I sent the first chart to Carlos and he used it as a base for the pelagic trip route. Interesting bit of irony- while on the vessel south east of Block Island, a few of us saw a plane in the distance flying low over the ocean. I mentioned that it might be Kris doing his surveys. I received an email from Kris on Saturday night when Jen and I got home. It turns out it was Kris, and he was doing his first survey in a month, as they were not able to get out due to the winds and weather (fog) all month. What did he find on his survey?? Well, I will give you his report at the end of this report!

     Part 1, Heading Out- The morning started out with a brilliant sunrise peering through a slightly opened window of a horizon, surrounded by a canopy of a cloud crusted sky.

     Dedicated pelagic birders began arriving, anxious for a great day on the sea.

     With all twenty-eight on board, Capt. Don fired up the diesels and first mate/Capt. Cory cast off the lines, the Gail Frances backed away from the dock just as the harbor was waking up. Jen I were on our usual spot on the pulpit and we were joined by Matt Reynolds and Bill Thompson.

     As the Gail moved out of the harbor along the docks, everyone was scanning the docks by the Coast Guard Station. Two weekends ago, Paul L’Etoile and a few others found a first winter Glaucous Gull on the piers in that location
Bill Thompson who was standing with Jen and me on the pulpit also photographed the same Glaucous Gull (most likely) at Beavertail Point a few days before it was discovered in Galilee. ( )
(Click on the links above to see their spectacular close-up images of this magnificent Gull).

    Just as we approached the open area in front of the Coast Guard Station, everyone’s binoculars were fixed on the piers, vessels and roof tops looking for that Gull; and there it was. The stark nearly-white plumage of this Gull stood out against the contrasting dark background of the rusty trawler. What a great way to start a pelagic trip!

     The rock jetty along the narrows hosted a very contented group of loafing Common Eiders and a single second winter Greater Black-backed Gull. The plumage of the hen Eiders are beginning to bleach into their spring nesting plumages.

     The Point Judith Lighthouse framed in brilliant yellow/orange complimented by the blue/violet color of the clouds; a perfect compliment of harmonious colors from an artist’s eye. This morning was captured on a natural canvas.

    As we steamed across the calm open water of the Harbor of Refuge, small flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers crossed the bow heading east.

    This flock of five Lesser Scaup followed the Mergansers.

     A pair of Oldsquaw flew off in the distance following the center sea wall.

     When we reached the gap in the west wall, flocks of rafted Eiders greeted us. The birds were stretched out all along the outer sea walls.

     One of the many Great Cormorants still in the area.

  There were many Common Loons on the water just outside the sea walls, including this one that let the Gail get very close before it decided to take wing and get out of its way. Most of the Common Loons we saw that day were in transitional breeding plumage. This Loon was nearly in complete breeding plumage.

     A decision was made to go back to the docks and pick up a few blocks of frozen fish chum to add to the squid, twenty-five pounds of cut-up suet and seventy-five pounds of catfood Jen and I brought with us for chumming. With the added frozen fish, we should be very successful in our chumming efforts. The odoriferous squid (I left it out for a few days) and frozen fish would be perfect for laying a slick just in case there were Fulmar in the area, and the chunked suet, fish and catfood would visually entice the Fulmar in close and of course the Gulls (hopefully a few White-winged Gulls in the flocks).

     On the way back in this flock of Great Cormorants flew by over the jetties of the narrows and then flew east along Salty Brine Beach.

Going back in for chum was a good decision because it gave us two more looks at the Glaucous Gull. On the way init was perched on one of the vessels…..

     …..and on the way back out, it had moved to the Herring pipe.

     Another Loon nearly dressed in breeding plumage passes by the Gail in the narrows,

     Followed by this immature Great Cormorant.

     Outside the center wall on the way to Block, this Common Loon was just starting to transition into its spring plumage showing only minimal amount of black speckled feathering in its lores and a few white spots developing in its tertials.

     As we again passed through the gap in the Jerusalem/Center walls, small flocks of sea ducks passed by the bow including these Common Eiders,

     American Scoters,

     and Surf Scoters.

     The first leg of the trip was to head southeasterly to the codfishing grounds; the Mudhole and then Coxes Ledge.  This would bring us east of Block Island a good location for large alcids.  We hadn’t traveled too far from the sea walls when the first Gannets were seen. The Gannets continued sporadically, these near Block Island.

     As we passed east of Block Island and almost on cue, Alcids were spotted flying in singles and small flocks in the distance between us and Block Island. The alcids were too far to ID, but were most likely Razorbills and Murres.

     A flock of Surf Scoters with Old Harbor, Block Island in the background.

     The sea was quite calm with light to moderate easterly winds, quite a contrast to the November Rhode Island pelagic  ( ) .  As we passed by Block Island, Red-throated Loons became numerous, flying by in singles…..

     ……pairs and flocks like this one with 16 birds.

     The ride to the Mudhole was quiet, with only occasional birds showing such as these White-winged Scoters,

     And a few Common Loons, such as this one in half-transitional plumage.

     Part 2, The Codfishing Grounds- As we arrived to the Mudhole, (which is between the East Grounds and Coxes Ledge) our long quiet ride soon paid-off with many winged and finned dividends such as this full-hooded Common Murre….

     ……and pair of Razorbills.

     But an unexpected treat came from a shout-out from the upper deck; Whales! In the distance were two Northern Right Whales that only gave us a few quick glimpses as they broke the surface of the sea. Jen and I only saw them once as we approached a Lobster Boat; the whales blow spray is visible in the images below.

      Next month Jen and I will be going to Provincetown for a few days, and we both look forward to the opening of the whale watch season, which isn’t bad for pelagic birding either! Last April we had an unbelievable day with endless Northern Right Whales and pelagic birds with White-winged Gulls. At one time we had a Little Gull, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Kittiwake, Nelson’s Gull and Laughing Gull in the same moment feeding with the skimming Right Whales. To see the report from that day see my blog report

           A single Fulmar passed by the vessel making a short appearance as it disappeared to the west.

     Since there was some obvious baitfish activity below highlighted by the nearby cod fleet, fulmar and increasing number of birds, Carlos decided to give chumming a try. On the stern, Cory readied the chum bags. In one of the burlap sacks went a large frozen block of fish. The sack was tied off with one end of the long rope, and Cory entertained us with his knife wizardry. He punctured the sack and frozen block many times like piercing a large potato before it goes into the microwave.  The punctures are necessary for three reasons: to help the block thaw, but most importantly, to aid in the release of the precious fish oil odor for the slick, and to let small thawed pieces of fish  escape the bag to create a food line to compliment the slick.

     I suggested adding my squid to the second bag. Since I had let it stay out of the freezer for a few days in the warm sun, it should give off  quite an aroma on the surface of the sea. Since a Fulmar had just passed by the vessel, maybe this would entice it back to the Gail with hopefully closer looks for everyone. Unfortunately for Carlos, he was standing down wind when I opened the container of squid. As Cory poured the squid into the bag, Carlos adjusted his position on the stern of the Gail to a more favorable ‘upwind” position; sorry Carlos! :^)

     The bag of ripe squid was tossed over the stern and the rope secured to the rail. Each bag floated alongside the stern of the Gail, unfortunately, the tide was running against the wind,  so unless any Fulmars were nearby to the slick, it would be harder for them to pick up the slick line back to the Gail. But I did see a couple of Herring Gulls in the area, so I started tossing a few slices of bread overboard to hopefully bring them over to take a look.

     Everyone has different ways to attract birds to chum. In the winter there are no scent orientated birds such as Fulmars, Petrels and Shearwaters with refined olfactory senses; you are more reliant on the Gulls to get things going. Since Gulls have eagle-like vision, they are drawn to a visual display of food coaxing. First you have to attract the Gulls and get them worked up into a feeding frenzy. I accomplish this by tossing  slices of white bread like a Frisbee into the water. The gulls of course are drawn to the bread, and respond immediately. Once you have their attention, I begin tossing the catfood.

     On land, most Herring Gulls don’t recognize the catfood as a food item, but  Ring-billed Gulls do. Once the Ring-billed Gulls begin to feed on the catfood, the aggressive Herring Gulls overtake the Ring-billed Gulls, and assume dominance. But on the water out to sea, you don’t see many Ring-billed Gulls so the Herring Gulls need to learn that the catfood is a food offering.  I accomplish this by augmenting the catfood with a recognizable food item. When you toss the catfood overboard, it soon gathers together into floating mats.  Because the catfood I purchase is reddish in color, it shows up well on the water. I then toss spoonfuls of coarsely chunked suet into the floating mats of catfood, and when the Gulls swoop in to take the floating suet, they soon figure out that the catfood is also food.

     With the Gulls trained to the catfood, all that is left to do is just sit back and watch the show! The hardest part is looking through all the frenzied Gulls looking for an uncommon species or leg bands. Just keep the feeding procedure going, and the Gulls keep coming.

    From only two Gulls, we were able to coax three dozen Gulls to the stern, but the Fulmar never returned. The squawking Gulls attracted a few Gannets that flew over checking out what the Gulls were up to.

     The number of passing alcids increased flying closer to the Gail, like this group of three Razorbills….

     ….. and this Razorbill and two Common Murres.

     Small groups of Scoters crossed by the Gail including this group of White-wings.

 After twenty minutes of chumming, the Fulmar didn’t return, although small numbers of Alcids continued. Carlos and the Captain decided it was time to move on heading towards Coxes Ledge. Along the way, the numbers of Alcids continued like this single Razorbill that flew close by the bow of the Gail…..

     … well as this group of three Razorbills.

     After a short steam, we approached our first swimming alcid that was close to the vessel; it was a single adult Razorbill. Capt. Don brought us close to the bird before the bird flushed.

     Shortly after, three more Razorbills crossed ahead of the bow of the Gail heading east.

     We saw many Gannets sitting on the water that day, including this adult that swam right by the port side of the vessel giving all of us close looks at this beautiful bird. Jen especially enjoyed this close look at the bird; Gannets are her favorite species.

     We had only traveled a short distance, when four Razorbills flew by heading west.

     More Gannets came and went, but they  began flying closer to the Gail. Up until this point they had stayed at a distance from the vessel.

     A single alcid flew across the bow within thirty yards. You could easily identify it as a nearly full hooded Common Murre.

     As the Murre flew off to the east, a pair of Razorbills appeared flying east off the stern,


    followed by another pair of Razorbills flying west off the bow.

     Part 3, Fulmars Everywhere-  As we approached Coxes Ledge, a beautiful adult Gannet approached the Gail from the north, as I started taking pictures my camera indicated that my SD card was full. I ran back into the cabin to change the card.

     Normally I keep extra cards in my pocket, but because of the small postage stamp size of the card, I decided I didn’t want to take a chance changing them on the outside deck of the vessel risking dropping it over board as I fumbled inserting it with cold fingers. With the card changed I walked through the cabin door just in time to see a Fulmar gliding by on the starboard side of the vessel.

     When I made it back to the pulpit, Jen (with a smile) gave me a bit of a dig and asked me “where have you been?”-” There were Fulmar all over the sea”! I looked around and there were a dozen Fulmars flying around in all directions.

     I spotted a single blue morph Fulmar (left) in the flock- it was a light blue bird keeping company with a regular plumaged bird.

     More and more Fulmar appeared, and eventually were circling around the vessel from all directions.

     While our heads were spinning in all directions watching the Fulmar, a flock of five Razorbills passed by in the middle of all the whirling gathering of the tube-noses.

    The Captain again announced over the loudspeaker; Pilot Whales. Just at twelve o’ clock off the bow a small pod of Pilot Whales were seen breaking the surface.

     While the whales broke the surface in the area, Fulmar continued to put on a wonderful show circling the Gail often coming quite close for everyone to get good looks.

     In the short distance, a single Fulmar was sleeping on the sea.

        As the vessel approached, it took off, pattering over the waves.

     While the Fulmar show continued to entertain everyone, a pair of birds drifted up to the bow of the boat.

          They both took off skimming the tops of the waves.

     Small groups of Fulmar were gathered together on the sea,

     while others continued to fly around the area.

     Another Gannet swam by fairly close to us on the pulpit, I couldn’t resist taking a few more shots.

 We sat there for nearly half an hour watching the awesome Fulmar show. Just as the Fulmars gradually flew off into the distance, Jen spotted a darker blue morph Fulmar gliding across the waves over a hundred yards off the bow.

     It passed over the wave tops exhibiting its classic alternating side to side glide all the time slowly moving closer to the Gail coming within fifty yards.

     A second  blue morph Fulmar appeared and slowly disappeared to the west.

   While we watched the last of the Fulmar fade into the horizon, all of us were caught off guard as a single male red-winged Blackbird flew in from the south and appeared to want to land on the sea. It was possible that the bird was finding some sort of food item on the surface of the sea, or maybe it was confused? The Blackbird eventually flew off to the north.

      This adult Greater Black-backed Gull stayed with us for quite a while. It kept circling the vessel over and over, I just had to take its picture…..

     … well as these Gannets that passed by including this third year bird-

     and this adult.

      We again got underway heading for Block Island. After a short steam, a single Alcid appeared and flew directly towards the bow. As it crossed the path of the Gail, it was easy to identify. The bird was a strikingly plumed adult Common Murre with a full hood and it was wearing goggles; it was the bridled polymorphic ssp. Bridled Murres represent up to twenty percent of the Murre population. This ssp. nests farther north than the regular Common Murre species.

    A few minutes later, I spotted four white dots in the distance on the water. I knew they were alcids, I hoped they were Dovekies. I pointed them out to the upper deck. As we got closer to the birds, they took off showing their identity; four Razorbills. They flew by heading west giving us close looks. The two adults had full hoods,

     I was taking another picture of a Gannet as it passed over when the boat slowed.

     The Captain announced that there was an alcid on the water that just dove just off the starboard bow. The immature Razorbill popped up after a short dive giving everyone good looks.

     Part 4, the Whale and Gull Show- Block Island slowly appeared on the horizon to the north. As we got closer a distant herring trawler came into view. Seeing working trawlers offshore usually means one thing; birds, and plenty of them!

      Everyone on board had spotted the swarming Gulls around the trawler, so Captain Don moved directly for the vessel.  As we got closer to the trawler, another larger pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales were surfacing among the frenzied birds. It was obvious the Whales were following the trawler.

     Captain Don stopped the Gail and we drifted with the Whales. A Red-throated Loon passes by a surfacing female Whale.

     A female and youngster surface. You can see Southeast Light on Block Island showing how close we were to the Island.

     Two males bust the surface. The males are identified by the hooked dorsal fins; the older the male the more the hook.

     The pod of Whales were swimming directly for the Gail, and often sounded right below us; that was fabulous!!

    This was a very large older male, it swam directly below us on the pulpit. Jen (and everyone on board) were really enjoying the whale show!

     More images of the pod-

     This whale came so close you could actually see the texture to its skin including the many scars and scratches.

     The Whales following the trawl directly in line with the trawler.

     As the pod of Pilot Whales moved out of the area, we said good-bye and thanked them for the awesome show. With our attention focused back on the Gulls following the trawler, Capt. Don came up as close to the trawler  as he could. Everyone began looking through the Gulls for rarities, I just enjoyed the Gull show!

 A Gannet makes a plunge dive into the sea just behind the trawler (on the left)….

     ....and surfaces only to take off and try it again.

     Another Gannet appears in the cluster of Gulls.

     This Greater Black-backed Gull dives in head first.

     While we were enjoying the Gull show, a second trawler appeared with its own cluster of swarming Gulls following close behind.

     We just drifted with the tide between the two trawlers and the three hundred Gulls. A flock of six Razorbills flew by…..

     …..just as part of the (or another) pod of Pilot Whales surfaced again giving us another close look at this magnificent Marine Mammal species.

      Since the trawlers had brought with them a large number of Gulls, it was decided that we would start chumming again. There were so many Gulls in the area, there was bound to be a few winter Gull specialties in the flocks.

     Captain Don hit the throttle and moved the Gail closer to Block and out of the trawl paths. When the throttle dropped, it was time to begin chumming. As we drifted in the current, Cory through over the chum sacks, and I began tossing the bread. It only took a few slices before the first group of Gulls came.

     Next the catfood and suet chunks were tossed over, and the Gulls came! Someone from the upper deck shouted that they had just spotted an Iceland Gull. I caught a glimpse of it as it passed over the stern. I never got a picture of it, I had the food scoop in my hand; too busy keeping the Gulls well fed! The Gull numbers began to build! (you can see the floating mat of catfood in the image).

      With every scoop of catfood and spoonfuls of suet chunks, more and more Gulls came……

     ……..until there were around three hundred Gulls off the stern of the Gail Frances in a massive swarm of a feeding frenzy. Carlos looked down from the upper deck and told me “I think you pulled every single Gull from the trawlers”!

     Gannets started showing up and joined the buffet. They gorged them selves on chunks of suet and chunks of frozen fish that Cory was cutting up and tossing over.

     I was sending the chum over from the center of the stern. Jen was on the starboard side of the stern watching the Gulls while they passed by heading into the east wind for the chum. Many of the Gulls that were feeding would leave and circle around the bow joining newly arriving Gulls heading for the stern. Jen cried out to me “yellow legs” meaning Lesser Black-backed Gull ( a nickname she coined for this species while watching the Lesser Black-backed Gull at Ninigret).  Just as I looked up, a birder on the deck behind me also sighted the bird and pointed it out. Immediately locating the bird, I started taking a series of images while the Gull did the Kittiwake “walking on the water while feeding” thing.

     The Gull got lost in the mass of Gulls and we all searched for it again. I looked over to the starboard side and started looking through all the dangling tarsii searching for bands or yellow legs. I spotted a pair of yellow/green tarsii in a cluster of Gulls and took a few images.

    The Gull with the yellow/green tarsii got lost in the tangle of Gulls, but when I looked at the images later, the Gull with the yellow/green tarsii revealed itself to be a Herring Gull. But interesting though, the bird also had a complete long white mirror on p10 (like a Greater Black-backed Gull), unlike the usual Herring Gulls shorter white mirror with black sub-terminal band separating the mirror from the white tip spot.

     This Greater Black-backed Gull tears at a chunk of frozen fish,

    Another one looks from above.

     With the three hundred Gulls still gorging themselves on the last of the catfood and suet,  the Captain announced it was time to head in. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed the Gull show!

Part 5, Heading Home- The Gulls slowly faded into the distance, and the shores of Block Island came closer into view. The Southeast Lighthouse-

     As we passed the southeast corner of Block, several large flocks of Scoters were moving along the eastern shore of the Island. At the distance they could only be identified as “dark-winged” Scoters.

     But as we got closer, it was easier to identify the species make-up; the flocks contained mostly Black Scoters. There were however many Surf Scoters in the flocks.


      This flock had one White-winged Scoter in it.

      Black Scoters…..

      This flock of eleven Scoters against the Mohegan Bluffs background contained four Surf Scoters.

      Surf Scoters-

     Three Great Cormorants on the North Ledge buoy-

     The ride back to Point Judith was quiet. We didn’t see any alcids on this leg of the trip, just Sea Ducks and Gannets. It was a great time to reflect on the day. Although we didn’t see any Kittiwakes or Dovekies, it was another fabulous day birding on the sea. The Whale Show was fantastic, and a real bonus being so unexpected (and close)!
     As we passed through the gap in the center wall, the Point Judith Lighthouse marked the end of a wonderful day. Everyone crowded on the bow hoping for another look at the Glaucous Gull, but it wasn’t there.

     Again, Jen and I want to express our appreciation to Carlos for putting together and hosting another fabulous pelagic trip and another great birding memory, Thank You Carlos! It was a great day, with wonderful people, and of course great birds (and whales)! And I would also like to extend a Thank You to Kris Winiarski for all your help with the winter alcid data!

     What about Kris’ aerial sightings report from Saturday? - Kris got out for our first flight in about a month and found that the Alcids and Sea ducks had thinned substantially. He didn't see any Dovekies, and had lower numbers of Murres and Razorbills.  They did pick up a small group of Fulmar at the southern end of their study area when they were a few miles west of us.  They also spotted a few thousand Scoter (the majority being Black Scoter) on the Southwest Ledge of BLock Island.

Highlights from this pelagic trip are listed below the book review.

     This GPS trip chart below was supplied by Bill Thompson, Thank You Bill!

To compare last years Rhode Island Pelagic, click here:

     If you are new to or interested in taking and signing on to pelagic birding trips or have a moderate interest in pelagig birds and birding, I might suggest purchasing a copy of this wonderful Field Guide by Noble Proctor and Patrick Lynch. This book is the perfect size to keep in your gear bag (or jacket pocket) and with the added mammal, fish and other sea life covered it is a complete guide for offshore birding in New England. If you are in the Madison, CT area, stop by the Audubon Shop,say hi to Jerry and Janet, and pick up a signed copy from them.

Here are the highlights from the day:  

Common Eider- 282
Surf Scoter- 75
Black Scoter- 53
White-winged Scoter- 23
Dark-winged Scoter- 250 (higher percentage Black Scoter)
Oldsquaw- 4
Common Goldeneye- 12
Red-breasted Merganser- 6
Lesser Scaup- 5
Black Duck- 11
Red-throated Loon- 34
Common Loon- 42
Red-necked Grebe- 1
Fulmar- 32 (3 blue morphs- 1 light blue, 2 med/dark blue)
Gannet- 58
Great Cormorant- 23
Double-crested Cormorant- 3 (around the docks in Galilee)
Glaucous Gull-1 (light first winter bird hanging around the docks by the Coast Guard    Station where it has been seen for the last two weeks)

Iceland Gull- 1 (adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gull- 1 (adult)
Gulls (mostly Herring) - 550+ (including a single yellow-legged Herring Gull)
Common Murre- 7 (at least 1“bridled” ssp.)
Large Alcids- 38 (many birds in the distance east of Block looking west from the Gail Frances in route to the Mud Hole)

Red-winged Blackbird- 1

Northern Right Whales- 2
Long-finned Pilot Whales 25+ (2 pods)

Keith and Jen Mueller
Killingworth, CT