Posts Tagged ‘alcids’

19th March – All at Sea from Galilee!

March 22, 2011

A hardy group of CT and Rhode Island birders set sail on a Frances Fleet Charter out of Galilee, Rhode Island on a dedicated pelagic trip. A nice mix of people, superb weather and a decent show of alcids made for a pleasant day on the Ocean, even if we didn’t connect with a Great Skua or anything of that ilk.

I was hoping to photograph some winter alcids and to brush up on my rusty  id. skills, especially since I haven’t seen many alcids in the last decade!  Many of the trains of alcids were distant and it was hard in these real-life field conditions to see any really well. General shape and color rendered most of them Razorbills, but separating out Common Murre from these birds whizzing by was tough.

Capturing a flock of Razorbills like this digitally allows a better assessment of size and structure and plumage marks- all of which are basically tough to assess and compare under pelagic conditions with distant birds. Also note here that the first-winter birds (eg. third from right) have much slimmer bills than the adults. (CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Did you notice the Common Murre mixed in with the flock  in the first photo?? I didn’t notice it at the time either, only after looking at the photos did it pop-out..just goes to show. Here’s the same flock..can you pick it out? Note the rather flat-back and horizontal profile to the Razorbills. The thick bills and blocky heads lend a front-heavy appearance, while the Common Murre has a longer body with a “hunch-back” and longer feet (difficult to determine on most views in the field).  Unlike Razorbill, they look slightly more pear-shaped with the weight of the body at the rear. The Common Murre is the 4th from the left. Also in the top photo, note the dark “thumbprint” on the axillaries compared with the relatively white-looking armpits of the Razorbills. (CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Head patterns of winter alcids (from l to r): Thick-billed, Razorbill and Common Murre (Julian Hough). Note bill shape and shape and extent of white behind the eye.

Thankfully, a few close Dovekies played ball and everyone was able to get good looks at these flying tennis balls. A US lifer for yours-truly and a species I had only seen a handful of before in the UK (is two a handful, and if the first was in a box, does it count?)

Munching away on some chocolate-covered pretzels at the stern, I noticed an alcid approaching. Upon lifting my bins, I noticed a complete breast band before it turned and gave away a compact plump-bellied look..not a Razorbill, not a murre…big bill….it’s a….”PUFFIN!!” came the shout from Glenn Williams on the deck above. The bird whirred by at distance, crossed the bow and was gone, gone, gone. A good showing of  Gannets, peppered by small, northward-bound groups of Red-throated Loons were noteworthy but not too exciting.  No Brunnich’s Guillemots could be picked out – a species I had hoped to see on this trip, but being scarce my hopes were not that hight to begin with.

Everyone was a pleasant and it was good to put some faces to names. Keith “trigger-finger” Mueller and his wife Jen were good fun and Keith gave everyone a set of fabulous duck stamp prints he had done for Rhode Island. Finally,  a brutish-looking Iceland Gull greeted us at the dock as we arrived back at Galilee. A nice finale to a great day.

CT Birder Frank Mantlik in action

Top-deck lookouts!



Main highlights:

115 Razorbills,
65 large Alcid Sp.
160 Northern Gannets
1 Black-legged Kittiwake
9 Bonaparte’s Gulls

2 Iceland Gull
27 Common Loon
45 Red-throated Loons
23 White-winged
8 Black
5 Surf Sc oters
1 Long-tailed Duck