New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Part 3- "Here Comes the Larids"

Day 8- Monday, February 4, Hammonasset Beach SP, Madison, CT- Today was another windy day, so I started at Meigs Point hoping for an Iceland Gull. There was fairly good Gull activity with many Ring-billed Gulls feeding on the breaking surf along the beach near the jetty.-

    The Gulls were spread out all along the beaches from Meigs to Middle Beach.-

     This Herring Gull had successfully caught the animal from a Slipper Shell.-

    The feeding Gulls were concentrating their efforts along the breaking surf of the beach-

     And there it was... a 2nd cycle Iceland Gull. It just flew right by me! This is the fifth Iceland Gull for Madison this month-

     It made a small circle and landed right in front of me.-

     The Gull gave me a good opportunity to study it while it swam by.-

     This Gull had a small rounded head and a short bill-

     The Gulls continued to feed along the breaking surf-

     After a few minutes, it flew off to join the larger group of Gulls farther down the beach. Notice the four darker outer primaries?-

     This always happens when you are photographing Gulls!-

     As this Gull flies away it looks back at me . This is a good image to see the darker mottled markings of its tail.-

     There were several flocks of Sanderlings flying up and down the beach often joining the feeding Gulls.-

     More flying views of this 2nd cycle Iceland Gull. Note the dark tail markings and outer primaries are clearly visible-

     The Gull numbers on the beach increased-

     The Gull flew by close at times. These images in better light-

     Interesting view from the rear.-

     In relation to the Herring Gulls-

     Good profile study showing its small compact look with a rounded chest and breast, and its small head and short bill are obvious-

     Greater Black-backed Gull-

     As the tide fell, many of the Gulls settled in on the beach-

     The Iceland Gull and two Ring-billed Gulls swim over a wave-

    More flying studies highlighting the underside of the Gull.-

     The Gull walking through sea foam-

     More studies of the Gull on the beach. Besides the field marks I already mentioned, notice how the head shape changes from round to peaked and triangular? But even with the peaked look to the top of its pileum of the head, the angle from the bill (forehead) remains the same. This Gull has an elevated orbital area circling the eye which is common on many Iceland Gulls. Although it is not always noticeable, it is more elevated and pronounced on this Gull. It is a good field mark for separating multiple similar Gulls which will be illustrated in upcoming reports. There are a few easy points I use to identify similar Iceland Gulls in 1st and 2nd cycle.

     Too often I see reports of  a continuing Iceland Gull at a location, only to discover it was a completely different bird. If you are confused by the wide range of Iceland Gull variations, here is a simple method I use in the field to identify individual Gulls.  By keeping and comparing notes and observations it can be easy to separate individual birds. Here are the five points that I use: 1) head shape which includes markings and the eye orbit area, and the angle of the forehead slope  2) bill length, shape and color including tip markings, 3) overall size compared to Herring Gulls (if nearby), 4) wing tip patterns, colors, projection (on standing/swimming birds) etc., and 5) tertial and wing covert colors and markings.-

    Two good views to observe the colors and marking patterns of the primaries, tertials, secondaries and wing coverts.-

        Circle Beach, Madison-  Since it is only a ten minute ride,  I made a quick run to the beach on my way home. Just as I made the corner onto Circle Beach Rd., the large 2nd cycle Gull (which I found a few days earlier- Gull #2) was standing with a small group of Gulls that were gathered on the beach. (Circle Beach east).-

    As I drove off down the sand packed and gravel road towards Circle Beach (west) the Gulls took flight....

     ......and met me there.-

     Besides this Gulls stunning pale plumage, it was easy to recognize by its bluish bill with yellow/green tip that had a small pale dark spot on the tip of the maxilla.

    Herring Gulls may be common....but they have a wide array of plumage variations. I find many of these plumage variations very interesting. You will see many of these Herring Gull variations posted on my blog; I really admire the colors and shapes of the plumage and markings, overall appearance, etc. Each one is a work of art to me!-

     #2 would often pick along the wrack line on the beach-

      A very beautiful Gull!-

    As a bird carver/sculptor/artist, I am always watching birds for inspiration which may come from colors, attitude, interactions and of course animated postures. These preening postures were very inspiring!-

     Preparing to fold its wings-

     #2 circles around and lands a few feet away from me-

     FC was a bit late today-

     The entire flock of Gulls suddenly took off and flew out over the Sound! I had a feeling what it was....

     ......and sure enough, an adult Bald eagle cruising the shoreline-

     When the Eagle passed by and disappeared over Guilford Harbor, all the Gulls returned and settled back on Circle Beach.-

    When I pulled into my driveway, this male Red-shouldered Hawk was perched in one of the trees next to my wood shed. I took these images from my truck window.-

                        Part 4, Day 9 " Ice and Black Ducks" continues.....

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