Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Common Murre Flocks

This winter has been absolutely spectacular for the number of Common Murres on the central east coast of Vancouver Island. In over 15 years of intensive birding in this region, I have never seen anything like it. In January, I counted over 260,000 Common Murres off the mouth of the Little Qualicum River. Numbers like that for any species are only rarely seen in the Salish Sea, and I have yet to come across any previous counts of Common Murres in this area that even come close. Closer to home, numbers of Common Murres in NW Bay in the past 10 days have numbered somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand birds. Again, no one that I have talked to has ever seen these numbers locally.
Today we rowed from Moorecroft out towards the Ballenas Islands. The Common Murre flock in that area looked to be spread over an area about a 500 metres wide, and about two kilometers long. We were able to count 15,700 Common Murres in a couple of hours, but a rising SW wind forced us to turn back for home long before we finished counting.

We also came across a 2nd year Kumliens type Iceland Gull out there today. Although rare, this species (or hybrid type depending on how you define such things) does turn up here in Spring when the herring are spawning. I generally see a half dozen a year here. Finding what appears to be a glaucoides type Iceland Gull is certainly more difficult, but they turn up as well, almost annually.

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