New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Winter of Wind" - "The Kumlien's Diary" Chapter One

 ATTENTION- NEW REPORTS ADDED!!! IF YOU HAVE READ CHAPTER ONE- CHAPTER TWO HAS BEEN ADDED!! To continue, click here:      or go to March 3, 2013 in the Blog Archives for the continuing reports. Thank You!

       As I write this, I am wwaaaayyyyy behind with my reports...I have spent the remaining days in January and all of February getting out almost daily and have seen some amazing birding events unfold before me, and of course there was that weather!! To get caught up, my reports will be posted as I complete them. I have a feeling you will enjoy them. These continuing and updated reports will be added at the end of these posted reports. Although the dates will be advancing, however  they will be posted in order in reverse sequence at the end of these reports. Check each report to advance in chronological order by dates.-

     Part 1, Day 1, January 20, 2013- Circle Beach, Madison, CT- The birding along the coast has become a bit slow, with the exception of Gulls; their numbers are increasing which is normal for this month. I am also looking forward to February and March with the Long Island Sound invasion of tens of thousands plankton feeding Gulls. But for now, I have been spending nearly daily treks to the Madison shore from Hammonasset to Circle Beach. Either location is only fifteen minutes from my house, so I can run down there early in the morning, and still be home early enough to get into my studio. However, with the returning Iceland Gull to Circle Beach, this bird has become quite accommodating. It is there just about every time I go, and it has become relatively tame around me. This "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull has offered me an incredible opportunity to study this exciting winter species, and I have taken full advantage of its generosity.

     I have learned so much from this Gull beyond its species specific behavioral traits. Because this Gull offers me such a close approach, I have so much anatomical study documented, I now have a good feel for this species: inside and out- structurally speaking! Often I just sit there with the Gull only a few feet away from me, and watch every little movement of the bird down to the smallest of details from its feathers to its bill and eye expressions. This bird and the gift it has given me has made me realize what a fantastic species it is, and has now become one of my favorite winter bird searches, something I always did with Common Eiders, Mergansers and Alcids.

     My avian studies for over thirty-five years have been centered around Waterfowl, and to a lesser extent Seabirds, Nightjars and many species of Tropical birds. Although I did pay attention to Gulls, I wasn't primarily focused on them. It wasn't until four years ago, when I started focusing on them, thanks in part to Tom Robben for our jaunts to Massachusetts for the Little Gull quests and to New Hampshire for that stunning adult Glaucous Gull. But my new found Gull obsession is credited to Patrick Comins. His knowledge and deep interest in Gulls and willingness to help has made it easy for me to start again with the same energy and passion that I had over thirty-five years ago.

      I am now a die hard Larophile.....and to be more specific, an "Iceland Gull-aphile"!!  So much in fact, I am now calling my late January/February reports......

        .......and this is Chapter One!

      I met Mark Szantyr this morning to photograph the Gull again, and it showed up right on cue!-

      Because this Gull and I have kinda bonded...I had to give him/her a name! Jen affectionately calls the Rhode Island Lesser Black-backed Gull "the brat" for many reasons, so I wanted to give this Gull and appropriate name. I decided to call this Iceland Gull "FC" named after the two owners of the beach who have extended their kindness and generosity in allowing me complete access to their beach so I can enjoy and study this magnificent Gull. From this point on, I will call this Gull "FC" in all my reports. Can you find "FC" in the image below?-

    A flock of Brant is framed by the flying Gulls-

     One of "FC's" favorite roosting spots is on the small rocky jetty near Circle Beach-  

      A few of the Gulls congregated on the shore of Circle Beach-

     Mark looks for FC in the Gulls-

      FC flying in.....

     .....and joins the other Gulls-

     Mark grabs a few more shots. Check out his stunning images here:

      We are joined by local birders/photographers Jim Carr (center) and Helmut Buecherl (right)-

     Day 4, January 24, Long Wharf, New Haven Harbor- The Gull numbers in New Haven Harbor have been average this year. I did find one Appledore Island banded Herring Gull, and two wing tagged Ring-billed Gulls from the Mass. program, but not one White-winged Gull. Even the numbers of Waterfowl have been low. The usual large raft of five thousand plus Scaup were not in the harbor this year, but a few hundred were rafted behind Lenny and Joe's for a day or two. Although Gadwall numbers were also low, they seemed to be the most abundant waterfowl in the inner harbor.-

     Drake Gadwall and a hen Mallard-

     Gadwall pair-

     The Ruddy Duck numbers were also low-

      The Gadwall had full range of the Harbor-

    Guilford, Lost Lake outpouring-  On the way home I went along my usual route starting at Stony Creek. Although the numbers of Waterfowl seemed very low this year, Hooded Mergansers were everywhere, and seemed to be increasing in numbers. These were clustered in the Lost Lake outpouring on the north side of the causeway.-

      They were joined by a handful of stunning drake Red-breasted Mergansers.-

     Day 5, January 26, Circle Beach- Jen and I took a quick run down to the beach, and FC showed up as usual perching on the cottage roof top first then flying down onto the beach. We were later joined by John Marshall.-

      We watched FC consume snow with a few of the other Gulls.-

    Washing down the snow with a little sea water-

     Back to the snow!-

     A few of the Gulls on Circle Beach-

     Day 6, January 31, Hammonasset Beach State Park- Another storm was passing through the area complete with high winds (again). We missed the heavy rains, and possible snow that was forecasted, just squeaking by with periods of rain to accompany the winds. My favorite days to go birding along the coast is on windy days: the stronger the wind the better. This morning was perfect! I started out at Meigs Point hoping for some Seabird and Gull activity. The wind was blowing hard from the west/southwest, and the Sound was really kicked-up!

     The sun tried to break through the over stuffed sky. The dark clouds enhanced the heavy churned-up waves on the Sound-

     The sun did manage to break through from time to time......

     ......only to be engulfed by the heavy sky-

     Along the Moraine Trail-

      Flock after flock of Black Ducks flew off the Sound and settled into the calm of the marsh-

     The Herring and Ring-billed Gulls found a little relief tucked in along the small lee of the shoreline off the point.-

     Then the colors came!-

     Circle Beach- "New Wings on the Beach"-  When I was driving down to Hammo this morning, I was feeling confident that I would  find an Iceland Gull because of all that wind. To my surprise, I couldn't find one. Maybe I would have more luck at Circle Beach? At the small beach where the sharp curve on Ridgewood Ave. meets Circle Beach Rd., a drake Goldeneye was swimming close to shore in the cove.-

     Next to the drake "Whistler" were two Bonaparte's Gulls that were obviously seeking refuge from the wind. This is the first time I have seen Bonaparte's Gulls at Circle Beach. Bonaparte's Gulls are among my favorite Gulls species, and it was a real treat to see them at Circle Beach-

     As I pulled my truck alongside the small sandy burm at Circle Beach, the Gulls started flying in to greet me-

     **A little look into the future**----(( I always take a few random flock shots of Gulls to later evaluate and see what may have been in the flock, and this image demonstrates why. I didn't know it until later when I was looking through my images from this morning. In the extreme right of the images is an Iceland Gull ))-

     Here is an enlarged view clearly showing the White-winged Gull, and it isn't FC.-

      **But back to the present**! The Gulls kept arriving bucking the strong westerly headwind-

     They came in close and started landing on the beach-

     As I watched the Gulls pouring onto the beach, I spotted a set of white wings in the middle of the group, I   presumed at first that it was FC. As it got closer I could see that it wasn't..... was a different Gull, a second cycle Iceland Gull. The wind had delivered another gift to Circle Beach!-

     I lost the Gull in the tangled mass of Gulls still pouring into the small beach area.-

      I was momentarily distracted by a dark immature Herring Gull that was walking n the beach in front of me. There were many immature Herring Gulls mixed in the flock, but this one stood out, it was quite dark.-

     There were over three four hundred Gulls on the beach, and many were huddled into small scattered groups on the water. I looked quickly through all the Gulls searching for that "other" and new Iceland Gull that arrived this morning......

     There it is, on the left side of the small group in front of me.-

     This second cycle Gull was quite interesting. It had a long silhouette with a narrow head profile.-

     I tried to entice the bird closer, which was easy to do. It lifted off the water with the other Gulls.....

     ......and landed on the beach......

     .....about fifteen feet from me. This was a very handsome Gull!-

     Within a few minutes, the Gulls lifted off the beach and made a narrow circle, only to return to the same spot on the beach. The Iceland Gull returned to the same spot as well.-

     The 2nd cycle Iceland Gull walked directly toward me. Wait a minute, this one looks different!

     This was another 2nd cycle Iceland Gull! The Gull that was just here had a longer profile, narrower head, full black tip on its bill, and remnant feather barring in its tertials and wing coverts. This bird besides being more robust, has clean gray and white tertials and wing coverts with no barring at all.-

     I was given a wonderful gift this morning, two additional Iceland Gulls. This Gull was nearly tame, not at all timid like Iceland Gulls usually are. It walked right up to me!-

   The Kumlien's Diary- "New Wings on the Beach" - Part 2 continues.......

     Click on "Older Posts" below right to continue-