The LI Sound is not thought of as being a hangout for Alcids. But, amazingly, this winter, that is what it has become. Starting in December, the Sound began seeing large numbers of Razorbills (with a few murres mixed in) flying in from the Atlantic and feeding on fish, primarily herring. The Orient Point ferry, running from New London, Ct, to Orient Point, NY, became a hangout for birders, and turned up some amazing birds from the Sound. Even farther into the Sound they were being seen- I had one off Bridgeport, for example.
So, Phil Rusch, a CT birder, decided to organize a mini LI Sound “pelagic”. Through UConn’s project Oceanology he managed to arrange for a boat to take out 40 CT birders to scour the eastern LI Sound for Alcids and unusual seabirds. The original date was in January, when the Alcids were more numerous, but I couldn’t go. BUT- the trip was cancelled due to a snowstorm (the first of the winter), and was rescheduled to February. It was good for me- I could go- but not good for the birds. The herring, which are one of the birds main food sources, move out into deeper Atlantic waters around this time and a lot of the birds go with them. This meant the trip today was not very successful, but it was still an awesome day to be out on the water- warm (for February at least), sunny and calm (at least compared to the November trip out of Gallilee RI). We sailed along from Groton to Stonington, the very corner of the sound and CT waters, and though it was pretty dead, we managed to turn up 9 Razorbills and other assorted winter birds. Besides birds a Gray Seal was a nice surprise- these large pinnipeds are rare in the Sound.
Razorbill– 9 All off Mystic, around Rams and Enders Islands.
Northern Gannet– 5 Some nice individuals came right overhead.
White-winged Scoter– 2
Surf Scoter– 25 (rough estimate) At one point off Mystic a large patchy flock flew right by.
Common Eider– 18 On the jetty off Stonington Point.
Besides these just a slew of other common sea ducks, Cormorants, and such. Obviously not a great birding trip but a nice day anyway. Thanks Phil for organizing this, I hope there are more to come!
And of course, a nice day to spend with the other birders who make the Connecticut birding community run.