The fall migration of sea ducks along the Atlantic coast is one of the great migration events in North America. In autumn, millions of seabirds take full advantage of the often 30-40 MPH tailwind, driving their ground speed to dizzying numbers. Flocks of hundreds of all species of Scoters, Gannets, with Red-throated loons and teal mixed in, fly from their far north boreal nesting grounds to southern overwintering ground.
In late October I visited the Avalon Seawatch in Avalon, NJ, run by New Jersey Audubon. This location juts a mile into the ocean and is on a migratory pathway for seabirds. If the winds are blowing just right, the birds will be blown towards the shore and it’s easy to see them. There are scopes and a helpful naturalist there to explain what’s going on and what birds are whizzing by. This beach is the only location on the east coast where seabirds are counted as they race past on their often tail-wind induced, high-speed migrations. Some days seem a bit ho hum with small flocks of birds visible towards the horizon. On other days, like when I was there, the birds had a massive tailwind and we watched thousands of seaducks stream past just over the water in a non-stop migration. The final day tally was over 76,000 Black Scoters alone! The Avalon Sea Watch is in place from September 22 through December 22.
Learn more about the NJ Audubon’s Avalon Seawatch and how to visit.