[Tweeters] Common Eider, possible Thick-billed Murre

Eric Heisey magicman32 at rocketmail.com
Mon Jan 9 11:58:50 PST 2017

Hey all,

It was my first Sunday back in Bellingham after starting class again this week, so I decided to go for a drive around the sound and chase some of the nice rarities that have been around lately. I foolishly forgot to check the weather, though and was almost surprised to see it rain all day, I'd left my rain jacket in Bellingham! Needless to say, this made the day very wet for me, but still ended be a good day!

We started off with a few misses, first missing the reported Iceland Gull at Carkeek Park, then dipping on Slaty-backed Gull in Tacoma. After these stops we headed to Purdy, where a King Eider had been reported. We were initially unable to find the area it was reported from, but thanks to directions from Bruce LaBar (thanks Bruce!!), we were eventually able to locate the bird and get some pretty decent digiscoped photos. However, after further review of my photos, and after discussions with Bruce LaBar, the Eider has been identified as a Common Eider (see Bruce’s post for details)! I was looking at photos all night thinking it looked much more like a Common, but with my limited experience with Eiders in general I didn’t want to call it myself, so I’m glad that Bruce, Ryan, and others agree.

By the time we left it was already 2:30, and we arrived at the Gardiner boat launch about an hour later to look for the reported Yellow-billed Loon. We did not find the Loon, but after about 10 minutes of scoping I got onto a solitary Murre about 250 yards out. The Murre had clean white sides clearly demarcated against a dark black back, and entirely black cap (with no white in the face), and with white underparts extending up into the throat with the black in the nape wrapping around to form a connected triangle of white. The bill was also noticeably shorter and stubbier than that of a Common Murre. I watched the bird for about a minute and was just about to pull my phone out to snap a photo through the scope when the Murre dove, at which point I went to go get Annika. I shouldn't have taken my eye off of the bird. Despite 30 minutes of scoping the area where the bird dove, I couldn't find it again. I suspect that this was a Thick-billed Murre, but with lack of photos and a relatively short observation window I think it is best not to call it. While this was pretty disappointing, I suppose the bird very well could still be around. John Gatchet will have to be on the lookout!

So, despite that crappy weather, it actually turned out to be a pretty great day! Happy birding to you all!

Eric Heisey

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