A winter pelagic trip out of Freeport on Long Island with Seelife Paulagics again. The aim of the trip is to get a look at winter gulls and alcids, and in that the trip was a tremendous success. At the start there were plenty of Long-tailed Duck close to shore, along with Black Scoter, Red-throated Loons and Red-breasted Merganser. A Peregrine scattered on group of gulls before we lost sight of land, causing some confusion amongst the birders as well as the birds. Once we were out of sight of shore we started to see some alcids. Razorbills only at first, with a few Guillemots (which I now have to call Common Murre). The boat crew started to distribute chum, and we soon had a swarm of gulls following us around. Most of the gulls were American Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gull, but there were smaller numbers of Ring-billed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. A few more scarce species showed up, we eventually saw about 25 Bonapartes Gull, 3 Kittiwake, 1 Iceland Gull, and 1 possible Thayer's Gull.
The main target of the trip for me was Little Auk (known here as Dovekie). The prime conditions for this bird are a water temperature of 45 F. We clearly found this temperature gradient as all of a sudden we started to see small groups, all in flight.
The trip back was rougher than the trip out, with few additional birds. Principal additions to the day list were Common Eider, Surf Scoter and Common Loon.
The choice seems to boil down to an extremely dark Kumlien's Gull, or a Thayer's Gull with an extremely pale iris. Whatever it is it's an outlier...