Any murre species, and most alcids in general are difficult to see from land along the east coast. Most winters, small numbers of Razorbills can usually be seen migrating from shore but most birders must venture out on a boat to find the others. A report from Tom Baxter of a murre species found floating on Sunset Lake near Wildwood Crest, NJ on February 6th set off a rush of birders to the scene. Cape May birder Mike Crewe was one of the first on the scene and was able to confirm that it was a Common Murre. This is only the 4th record of Common Murre was shore in Cape May County, with the previous records from November or December of 1967, 1973, 1992, and 1993 (Birds of Cape May, Sibley 1997). The murre has been floating on the bay and can often easily be seen with a scope from multiple vantage points along the water in Wildwood Crest. Although the murre is most often seen floating happily among various ducks, it has been seen diving, eating, and flying by birders so the fact that its left wing droops down and that it is in an odd location don’t necessarily mean that the bird is injured or sick. Local birder Sam Galick told me that he suspects the murre may have floated in nearby Cold Spring Inlet and then got lost in the back channels of the bay before finding the larger Sunset Lake, where it has taken up residence every day since. This is an excellent opportunity for the pelagic-weary birder to get great looks at a seabird from shore! If you plan to chase the bird, try scanning from W Lotus Rd, New Jersey Ave, Columbine Rd, or any other dead-end road in the area.
My friend Mark Mizak was heading to New Jersey to pick up a new kayak he had purchased before he heads south to Florida for the rest of the winter, so Josh Lefever and I took a one-day roadtrip with him to grab the boat and also try for the murre which was a lifer for Mark. We stopped at Barnegat Inlet earlier in the day and then didn’t get down to Wildwood Crest until 4:30pm, but we had great looks of the Common Murre from W Lotus Rd (eBird checklist). Hopefully the little guy will wander back out to the ocean where it might be happier, although hanging out with Ruddy Ducks can’t be too bad!