Thursday, December 27, 2012

MA - Christmas Pacific Loon - 12/25

We've just returned from a short family break to Outer Cape Cod over the early part of the Christmas period. Christmas Day was pretty miserable weather-wise with freezing drizzle for much of the day, but I was fortunate to get out to Race Point (Provincetown) and enjoy an hour of seawatching before the really poor weather moved in. For the first 45 minutes the sea was flat calm providing ideal conditions to scan for loons. When it was finally light enough to see well, I found numerous Common and Red-throated Loons in the calm conditions and then, at 07:25hrs, a nice adult Pacific Loon. The latter species is still on the state review list and one that I've encountered on only a handful of occasions in Massachusetts.

Other species of interest included large numbers of Razorbills, plus three Common Murres and a Black Guillemot. These were the only alcids I could find despite much scanning for Dovekies - weather conditions just not right for them I guess. Some five Red-necked Grebes were present along with many tens of Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Eiders. All three scoters were seen though not in large numbers.

Most of the gulls I saw were flying east, possibly heading for a Pilot Whale carcass farther down the beach that we'd found the previous day - 1 adult Glaucous, 4 Kumlien's Gulls and about 6 Black-legged Kittiwakes were the most notable gulls amongst rather small numbers of the three common species.

Aside from 55 Dunlins and 35 Sanderlings I had the beach to myself for an hour until the first dog walkers arrived.

Pacific Loon - Race Point, Provincetown, MA. December 25th, 2012. Yep...horrendous and probably unidentifiable image of a Pacific Loon about 400m offshore. Digi-scoping has its limits and in completely overcast skies with drizzle, shortly after first light, this just didn't work. Below are my sketches of the bird drawn from memory shortly after the observation, and before consulting any references.

 Kumlien's Iceland Gull - Race Point, Provincetown, MA. December 24th, 2012. Second-cycle bird heading west and likely one of two second-cycle birds seen heading east on the 25th.

Common Murre - Race Point, Provincetown, MA. December 25th, 2012. Just ten meters from shore, losely associating with a flock of Red-breasted Mergansers. Two more distant birds were foraging off shore though never with the numerous flocks of Razorbills present.
Pilot Whale? - Race Point beach, Provincetown, MA. December 24th, 2012. Presumed Pilot Whale carcass being examined by Susannah and Matan. Probably no more than 9 feet in length and completely black in color. Curiously, the tail was completely missing and appeared to have been 'sheared' off. Several gulls were feeding on this, most of which were Great Black-back Gulls.

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