New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Saturday, January 11, 2014

" White-winged Gulls" and more- January 3 through 11

                           "Kumlien's Iceland Gulls"!!
      Monday, January 6, 2014- Circle Beach, Madison, CT- The Iceland Gull "mini-irruption" continues this morning at Circle Beach. Kind of an interesting winter season so far at this beach. Today I had the 17th Iceland Gull make an appearance since mid-December. It has become difficult keeping track of these Gulls since often only a few slight differences such as feather markings and colors and overall size and shape separate them. This is especially true with the 1st cycle birds. I have compared images of "similar" birds I saw and photographed here and found that the only difference between them is the shape of a few small markings on their tertials or primary tips, or the shapes of scapular barring. And complicating this even more is that many of the birds are one-it wonders that are here for only a day/gone the next, or often I see just a glimpse as they are flying by. A few of the Gulls that I have seen here and then left have re-appeared again a week or two later, only to be off again. And at this point; I haven't seen them again. This beach also produced two 1st cycle Glaucous Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, plenty of odd Herring Gulls (maybe a few hybrids), a returning Appledore Island Herring Gull and several wing tagged/banded Mass. Gull Study Ring-billed Gulls.

     This morning it was foggy, but since I have been coming to this beach every other morning, I decided to go. When I arrived to the beach area, the fog wasn't as thick as it was when I left Killingworth. First Gull on the beach was "FC".>  






      Having this great opportunity to be able to spend so much time observing these wonderful White-winged Gulls is a gift. Because so many of these Gulls have been here last winter and again this winter, I can study them closely for as much time as I want at very close range. My initial intention was to observe and study their anatomical features, which is extremely beneficial and which I incorporate into my carvings and paintings. But it has also been extremely interesting to pay close attention to their personalities and how they interact with all the other Gulls.

     FC has been my Iceland Gull barometer since he has been here the longest (Jen thinks its a he, so I will refer to it that way)- hows that for scientific!! :^) FC has become very accepting of me and will often approach me within a few yards, or allow me to do the same. Since I started observing him the last two winters, I noticed that he would always approach the beach cautiously, often circling the beach area many times before landing with the other Gulls. But when he did land with the other Gulls it was always on the peripheral of the group of Gulls. He could just about always be found on the outer edge of the congregated Gulls. He would then slowly mingle in the group but was also obviously timid in doing so. This timid behavior is something I have noticed quite often with Iceland Gulls wherever I was observing them: Jodrey's Pier and Plaice Cove in Gloucester, Galilee Harbor in RI, the boat ramp in New Haven, Windsor Landfill, etc. And this behavior is very common to the other Iceland Gulls that have come and gone on Circle Beach. I have also observed that Iceland Gulls are easily intimidated by other Gulls and will just about always give up their ground to other Gulls when confronted. To contrast with Glaucous Gulls that I have observed it is just the opposite. Glaucous Gulls will usually join a group of other Gulls within the flock more directly without extensive cautious circling, and are rarely intimidated into moving (in fact I have observed the opposite).

     One behavior that really stood out with FC was that as the number of Gulls increased on Circle Beach from a hundred to nearly five hundred, he would circle the area once or twice and keep flying and not join the other Gulls. When the Gull numbers remained in the four to five hundred range, FC basically disappeared  and was gone for a few weeks. I would occasionally see a distant glimpse of him, but essentially he was gone from Circle Beach. Last week when the Gull numbers declined, FC returned. He was also occasionally quite vocal when he came to the catfood>




      It still is interesting to me that this winter, his primary markings/edging bands have changed from the medium gray color (from the last two winters) to black this winter.>



      I looked over to my right and spotted this large 1st cycle Kumlien's Gull standing on the beach at the peripheral of the other Gulls. This is a new Gull to the beach>







     This Gull also had an elongated shape, different that the usual Kumlien's look>








     It lands again on the beach at the edge of the gathered Gulls>





     This view clearly demonstrates its elongated profile>




   As I was leaving Circle Beach, FC makes a final "circle" over the "beach", and then flies off. (Interesting) >










        After I left Circle Beach, I made a quick run over to Hammonasset Beach SP before I went home. Maybe the Black Guillemot that was reported there the other day made a return to Meigs Point? The wind was blowing strong southeast, maybe moving a few alcids into the area. A single drake White-winged Scoter flew by hugging the shoreline>


      A small group of Greater Scaup were sitting in the surf where the breakwater is, now buried in the extremely high tides and surf>


    I was just about ready to leave when I looked up just in time to see this 1st cycle Iceland Gull drifting west on the wind just a few yards out from the observation platform. Maybe this Gull will end up at Circle Beach tomorrow?>







      Saturday, January 4, Circle Beach, Madison, CT-  Jen and I started the morning at the beach under a bright blue sky and warm sun.....but it was still quite cold and windy! As usual when I walk onto the small beach, here they come!>




         Whatever you do.....don't look up!! :^)  >


       This Gull flew over but kept going. Not sure which one it was.>


      The same with this Gull. It came from the north in the East River marsh, flew over and kept flying to the southeast. This looks like a new Gull to me, I didn't recognize it.>


        FC beautifully illuminated against he brilliant blue sky>







     Another new adult to the beach. This one swam in from the left outside edge of the Gulls. This is also he third adult Gull of this type which had a petite look to them, and also had remnant brown feathering in the sides of the neck and upper chest in varying amounts. All three of these Gulls were also varying in size. Interesting coincidence....I now wonder if these three Gulls migrated together from the same area? This one was medium sized (between a Herring Gull and Ring-billed Gull) as compared to the one the other day which was quite small (glaucoides-like), just slightly larger than a Ring-billed Gull. The wing tip markings also varied slightly. This one had minimal pale gray markings in the wingtips and the small one from the other day had white primary tips with pale shadowing on the extreme inner vanes.>




    I found several Kumlien's Gulls in the hovering flock, and started photographing them. We were also joined by Lynn Stone whom I met the other day>


     On the peripheral of the flock to my right, this 1st cycle, a new Gull to the beach this morning.>



        One of the two continuing 2nd cycle Kumlien's Gulls. This one has been here for over a week>



      Photographing the above 1st cycle  Kumlien's Gull only a few feet from me>


      Here is one of the images>




     I am pointing to Jen that I just found that medium sized adult a few yards in front of me.>


     Here is that medium-sized adult>




     Quite a beautiful Gull!>




      Good size comparison with the nearby Herring Gulls>




     It flies up but lands again>






    Circle Beach faces due south, so on sunny days I have to try and coax the Gulls in closer to the beach while I position myself to the east of them for observation and photos. That doesn't always work because often many of the new Gulls stay outside the flock in direct line with the sun. All I can hope for them are some very backlit diagnostic images.While I was photographing the medium-sized adult on the beach, Jen yelled to me that she spotted another adult, it was bathing about fifty feet right in front of me in the surf. Unfortunately, I was looking into the sun, and was only able to take a few images of this Gull before it took off. This Gull was much larger; about the same size as a Herring Gull. It also had more extensive brown feathering in the collar.......





      .....and when it took off, it had whiter wing tips lacking the gray areas surrounding the white apical spots the smaller one did. It flew off to the east and I haven't seen it again. Jen and I found six Kumlien's Gulls this morning at the beach>



         While we were having fun with the Gulls on Circle Beach, the report came that a Barnacle Goose was found in the marsh at Buryinghill Beach in Westport. We were planning on doing errands today, and since one of the errands brought us down in the area, we decided to stop at Buryinghill to see if the Barnacle Goose was still there. When we drove down the entrance drive to the beach, the tide was really high; water and ice had just about covered most of the road. We looked in the flooded marsh, but did not see the Goose. There was however a large flock of Geese on the other side of the road by the entrance to the beach, maybe the Goose was there. While we were here, we went looking for the winter resident Lesser Black-backed Gull. We ran into Mark Danforth and he was also looking for the Goose, and was also unsuccessful.

     We started looking for the Gull, but it was also a no-show....strike two! But as the Gulls started building in numbers, this really large and odd looking Herring Gull started courting the Greater Black-backed Gull. That was really interesting!>




    On the way out of the beach, I stopped once more to look into the marsh just as a small flock or seven Geese swan out around the corner in the extreme back right of the flooded marsh. The fifth Goose in line was the Barnacle!>




    The Barnacle Goose never came any closer for better images. However, this Barnacle Goose which was banded in Scotland was the Goose that was frequenting the Country Club in the Westport area two years ago. This one offered better views....so I am posting those images here.>






     A stunning Goose! This is my favorite Goose specie along with the Ashy-headed Goose form South America.






        Later in the day we were heading home after completing all of our errands. We had a few minutes of light left, so we decided to stop by Long Wharf in New Haven Harbor to check through the large concentration of Gulls that had gathered on the mud flats. It was 3:45 and there wasn't much light left. Almost immediately, Jen and I spotted a wing tagged Ring-billed Gull.>    ..


     Well, we started looking at all the Gulls and found another.....


     .....and another.......


      .....and another! That made four!>












     Two in these two images>




     Actually, it was fun following the tagged Gulls as they flew through the large flock of wheeling Gulls over the parking lot>





     Two in these two images>










     The sun was starting to fade leaving behind a brilliant yellow and orange sky contrasting beautifully to its color counterpart of the violet snow>



        Because of the condition of the tags, we were only able to read the numbers on three of the four. I contacted Ken MacKenzie of the Mass. Gull Program, and he sent me the following data on the three:
A1090 an adult female was banded on 3/29/2013 at Pleasure Bay in Boston, and has been seen three times in CT since it was banded.


     A710 is an adult male banded on 11/15/2012 at the Blackstone River WTP in Millbury, Mass. It has been seen and reported six times (mostly in northern CT- last date being 3/29/13) until we saw it today at Long Wharf.


     A837 is an adult male and was banded on 12/13/2012 at Hager Pond in Marlborough, Mass. It has been seen and reported twelve times in NJ, Mass. and Quebec with the last time reported on 12/31/2013 in Clinton, Mass. This was the first time this bird was reported in CT. The Gull is most likely on ts way back to NJ where it has been reported usually in February.

 

     Friday, January 3, Circle Beach- This turned out to be a very good day at the beach. I had a feeling this morning that maybe a few new Gulls moved to the beach after yesterday's storm! I was quite anxious to get down there to see....the conditions with the heavy northwest winds were just right for another Glaucous Gull...or possibly a new Iceland Gull or two?  I pulled up just in time to see this one Gull flying by from the east. By the time I got my camera out, I was only able to take a few shots of it passing over the cottages heading towards the west over the boat ramp. I didn't see it return.>



     One of the two continuing 2nd cycle Gulls already present on the extreme right of the beach>






     This is the other temporary resident 2nd cycle Gull, This one is much more timid and shy, and usually the only time I see it, it is curiously flying over the beach. It comes from the east (probably from the private area with the large estates at Buffalo Bay), and makes a few passes overhead at Circle Beach and then returns back to the east.>


     Another 1st cycle Gull passes by the beach>





        This Gull is very similar to the above Gull, and is also just as  timid. The two Gulls are very close by plumage markings, but this Gulls barring on the lower tail coverts are not as heavy and show more space between them. The tail is more heavily marked than the above Gull which has a tail that is more solidly pale with lighter markings and barring. The wingtips on this bird are much darker, and the head shapes are uniquely different having a different eye location and eye set.>



      Then there is this one.....that doesn't seem to match any of the other Gulls.>


      This is a very large and dark 1st cycle Gull. It also quickly flew by and kept flying west.>


                    January 3 continues....... Click on "Older Posts" below right >