Friday, March 4, 2022

Sunday February 27, 2022 - Murre Mania - by Brian Patteson

We had to push the trip back to Sunday because of a hard blow from the north on Saturday, but had reasonable conditions at the Oregon Inlet Bar on Sunday morning. We were under the bridge by about 0700, and we didn't have to go far to find some life. We saw over 200 Razorbills and almost 300 Red-throated Loons within the first half hour, and we also spotted our first Common Murre (Kate Sutherland).
By 0830, we had added five more Common Murres, Little Gull, Manx Shearwater, and we were up to well over 1000 Razorbills. Common Murres continued to show well and we saw five more plus a couple of Thick-billed Murres over the next half hour. We had to go a little farther out to find some puffins, but we started seeing a few just over two hours from the inlet (Kate Sutherland).
There were definitely not nearly as many birds about ten miles off the beach, but we pressed onward, and we were eventually rewarded with a couple more Manx Shearwaters, a Northern Fulmar and the highly sought after Great Skua. The skua didn't stick around, but it made an impressive appearance, sending our gull flock skyward when it came blasting through. By mid morning we were in the rain, but fortunately it wasn't very heavy. Water was in the mid 50s about 24 miles from the inlet- about 10 degrees warmer than it was near the beach. It didn't look like there was a promising condition for phalaropes, so we tacked back inshore. We picked up several puffins along the way, along with a couple more fulmars that came in close. By 1300 we were back into the Razorbills and murres. We had several flybys, but we also found a group of three Common Murres and one Thick-billed Murre on the water for a rare direct comparison right beside the boat (Kate Sutherland).
We also managed some better looks at Little Gull and had a Humpback Whale showing well about five miles from the inlet. Razorbills were going by beak to tail right up to the end, and we finished the day with over 2800, which I believe is a new record for the boat. I would like to thank Kate Sutherland, Jesse Anderson and Matt Janson for helping lead the trip. And thanks to everyone who joined us; we had some newbies and they really hit the jackpot on their first trip.  

Most photos by Kate Sutherland, but a huge thank you to participants Rick Wilhoit and Matt Spangler for allowing us to use some of theirs here as well!

Species List February 27, 2022

Red-breasted Merganser - 105
Great Skua - 1
Common Murre - 25 to 27 * NC high count
Thick-billed Murre - 5 * NC high count
Razorbill - 2,838
large alcid species - 5
Atlantic Puffin - 34
Bonaparte's Gull - 34
Little Gull - 2 adults
Ring-billed Gull - 1
Laughing Gull - 1
Herring Gull - 134
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 15
Great Black-backed Gull - 13
Red-throated Loon - 401
Common Loon - 64
Northern Fulmar - 5
Manx Shearwater - 9
Northern Gannet - 55

Humpback Whale - 1
Bottlenose Dolphins - 16+

We saw Common Murres in basic plumage, like the bird above in the report, and a number in alternate plumage.  Here is a bird with typical alternate plumage (top, by Kate Sutherland) and a "bridled" type in flight (below, by participant Matt Spangler). 
A basic plumaged Common Murre taking off.  (Kate Sutherland)
Participant Rick Wilhoit took this stunning image of our afternoon Thick-billed Murre that so patiently sat for us with a Common Murre (pictured below - also taken by Rick)
One of the first Thick-billed Murres of the day was photographed first and then identified - these murres definitely kept us all on our toes! (Kate Sutherland)
Razorbills were out there in huge number Sunday!  The were seemingly everywhere on the water and in flight when we were closer to the beach. (Kate Sutherland) A number were coming into alternate plumage, as you can see below.
While most of the Atlantic Puffins we saw were young individuals likely hatched last calendar year, I did capture this bird that looked to be possibly a second year or older. (Kate Sutherland)
It was super exciting to finally see some Northern Fulmars!  (Kate Sutherland)
And finally, to bid you farewell (with this winter one for the record books!), our super cooperative Humpback Whale from Sunday afternoon courtesy of participant Rick Wilhoit - thanks so much everyone!!