On yesterday's (15 Dec 2019) Captree Christmas Bird Count, observers at Robert 
Moses SP enjoyed a spectacular flight of Razorbills, within which we also 
recorded a Thick-billed Murre and an extremely-rare-from-shore Common Murre.

The east to west flow of flocks of Razorbills was immediately obvious when we 
began at 7:00, and even a few minutes of additional viewing prior to that time 
would have produced hundreds of additional birds. The rate of passage 
diminished abruptly around 7:30, and only a few dozen were noted after 8:00. 
The total count of Razorbills was 637, a number exceeded at this site only once 
before, on last year's CBC. Last December, however, there had been prior 
reports of exceptional numbers of Razorbills on the move to the north and east 
of us. In contrast, the scale of yesterday's flight came as a surprise to us, 
especially given the 20 mph wind out of the west, a bearing that is generally 
unfavorable for local seawatches.

The rarity of the two murre species in this context deserves emphasis. 
Thick-billed Murre is a rare and irregular winter visitor to Long Island, 
occurring almost exclusively at particular sites with rocky substrates, 
especially the Montauk peninsula and Shinnecock Inlet. Common Murre is regular 
on Long Island's offshore waters, often in scores or even hundreds in recent 
years, but is still exceptionally rare from land. In forty years of birding the 
Rhode Island/Long Island coast I had seen this species from land only once 
before, at Shinnecock Inlet last winter. During last year's mega flight of 
Razorbills, and also during the one a few years before that, I remember 
repeatedly cautioning fellow observers that heavy movements of one species do 
not necessarily imply an increased likelihood of seeing other related but rare 
species. Then it happened to me. To add both of these species to my most 
intensively birded patch on the same morning was a stunning highlight and an 
example of how rewarding CBC-style effort can be.

Shai Mitra
Bay Shore

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1) http://www.mail-archive.com/nysbirds-l@cornell.edu/maillist.html
2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/NYSBirds-L
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