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A Brief Summary of Sea Watch 2021: A Waterbird Migration Monitoring Program

by Seth Benz

Since 2016, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park has conducted daily monitoring of autumn waterbird migration at Schoodic Point. A trained, official observer uses binoculars and a spotting scope to identify migrating birds traveling from east to west across the seascape looking southwestward from Schoodic Point. Migrating birds are those exhibiting direct continuous flight through the length of the seascape view.

The 2021 Sea Watch tallied 36,825 individual migrant waterbirds of 33 different species during 81 observation days. The official count took place from August 24 through November 23.  Observers amassed 251 hours of effort resulting in an average count of 146.8 birds per hour.

The bulk of this season’s effort was completed by two outstanding returning volunteers: Amy Kopec (August and September) and Zack Klyver (October and November). Alison Vilag, Bob Duchesne, and Seth Benz substituted on a handful of days. Daily observation periods ranged from a minimum of 30 minutes to a maximum single day observation period of 420 minutes. A typical day of observation commences just before sunrise and continues for a period of two to three hours. On 28 of the 81 days the early morning observation stint was followed by an additional randomly selected two-hour stint resulting in at least 300 minutes of observation for those days.  Additionally, there were 35 days with 120 minutes of observation, and 18 days with less than 105 minutes or less of observation.

The cumulative total of observation minutes was 15,054.

There were several days when environmental conditions (serious inclement weather and/or thick fog) prevented the count from taking place at all.

Sea Watch attracted 560 visitors.


2021 Sea Watch  Commonly Seen Migrants and Select Details

Species # of Days Observed Season Total Peak Flight Day Peak Flight Count
Double-crested Cormorant 74 (of 81) 13,267 Oct. 26 2,512
Common Eider 75 6,295 Oct. 25 551
Northern Gannet 80 7,922 Oct. 17 1,748
Surf Scoter 53 908 Nov. 18 89
Common Loon 74 631 Nov. 11 53