Black Guillemot

The Black Guillemot is a fairly common alcid in areas where it breeds. This includes Maine in the US, eastern Canada, Greenland, Scotland and Scandinavia. The alcids include Murres, Razorbills, Dovekies and the well-known Puffins. The Guillemot ventures a bit further south in the winter and we sometimes get to see it here in Massachusetts. However, while it remains close to shore where it nests in rocky areas along the coast, it stays further out at sea in the winter, especially if it is away from from its breeding sites. We don’t see it that often and when we do it is usually from a great distance. The best views typically require a spotting scope. A good time to spot them is after a big storm. They get pushed closer to shore and we can get better looks. I headed for the coast after the last nor’easter and indeed found one very close to shore.

Guillemots are are tied to the ocean and only come ashore to nest in rocky cliffs along the shore. So finding one outside its breeding area and only about 20 meters from the water’s edge was a treat. This one has started to take on its breeding colors. It will go from a mostly white bird with a black back to a completely black bird with a white patch on the wings. The patch is visible in these photos.

The photo session was interrupted by a fish sighting. Down he goes.

Guillemots can stay under water for up to two minutes and resurface far from where they went under. I lost track of it after this dive. It came up somewhere further along and was lost among the waves.

My luck held for the following day. I was with a group of birders and photographers and we spotted another Guillemot. It was much further from the shore but close enough to get a photograph. This one was in full breeding plumage.

It won’t be long before we have to travel north along the coast if we want to see these birds and their alcid cousins.

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