New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chapter Two, "The Kumlien's Diary" - "Another Storm"

     Part 5-  Day 8- Friday, February 8, Guilford and Madison Ct.- "Prelude - Apogee Tides and one Wicked Nor'Easter"- We all have been listening to the weather channels and I am quite sure that no one is looking forward to this storm that is heading our way. This nor'easter has the makings of being quite a substantial storm....lets hope that it stays to the south of us and goes out to sea......but I am not confident of that!!

     I spent most of the day prepping for the storm; filing bottles, pans and buckets with water, flashlights, batteries, candles, radio, changing the oil in the snowblower, and most importantly making sure the generator is primed and running! Here in Killingworth,  losing power is guaranteed if any wind is involved! In fact we lose it so easily and often, Jen and I cringe if a car drives down the street too fast!

     In the afternoon, I had a few last items to pick up at Wal Mart in Guilford which I did. While I was out anyway, why not get a little Gulling in on the way home. Since we would most likely be stranded for a few days, I might as well enjoy the time out. The small marshy pond above the causeway on 146 continued to hold a good concentration of Hooded Mergansers-

     A single Great Blue Heron flew in and found a nice comfortable spot along the shoreline to rest. I had a feeling this bird knew what was coming!-

      The Hooded Mergansers were busy fishing. They might be less active tomorrow when the storm impacts the coast.-

        Guilford Harbor-  The usual gathering of Gulls were present in Guilford Harbor, including this continuing banded Ring-billed Gull from the University of Quebec, Montreal which I found here over a month ago. Jen calls this Gull "KC"-

     A few of the gathered Herring Gulls in all cycles with the old shack on Grass Island in the background.-

    I know many people look at Herring Gulls as "common" birds in our area, and that is certainly true. But if you stop to look at them, the myriad of cyclical plumages are quite interesting such as this 2nd cycle Gull-

     And this one.....

     .....and this one.-

     From Guilford I drove around the other shore of the East River to Circle Beach in Madison. The small beach (aka Circle Beach-east) where Circle Beach Road begins was quite exposed from the low range of the Apogee tide. Thankfully for my Mother and Father-in-Law and those who live along the shoreline, this storm will be hitting during the lower tide cycle unlike during the Hurricane that struck on the highest tide cycle. There were a few Gulls picking along the waters edge including "FC"......

      .....and a second Iceland Gull, a 2nd cycle (left)-

     This was a new Gull to Circle Beach, I hadn't seen this one before (right)-

     FC flew off and made a few circles around the area....

     .....and landed back on the beach a few yards from me. FC has become more receptive towards me, and will let me approach him quite closely-

      The other Gulls started flying in to the beach coming from all directions.-

     During all the commotion from the arriving Gulls, I was able to get closer to the 2nd cycle Gull. This Gull was found by Mark Szantyr a few days earlier-

     It eventually wandered into the flock of Gulls. Can you find it? (Hint)- Iceland Gulls tend to stay on the edges or the peripheral of the Gull flock-

     Here is a clue!-

     This young Herring Gull has it all figured out!-

      Beautiful 2nd cycle Kumlien's Iceland Gull-

     Although FC still doesn't like being amongst the flock of Gulls, it has become more tolerant of them. Although he/she will sometimes leave the beach when the Gull flock gets too big, lately it has been staying and will mingle within the group. Can you find FC in this flock?


     Although FC's territorial posturing is still obvious. The 2nd cycle Gull (top left) watches as FC escorts this Herring Gull away from his favorite section of the small beach.-

     The 2nd cycle (left) and FC (top)-

     FC didn't seem to be intimidated by the 2nd cycle Kumlien's. After it directed the Herring Gull away from the beach, it swam off and .......

     .....climbed up on its favorite roost perch; one of the boulders on the end of the small jetty.-

     FC atop its roost, and the 2nd cycle in the foreground.-

     FC looks on as the 2nd cycle swims a respectable distance.-

    As I mentioned, FC allows me a close approach-

       A very handsome Gull indeed!-

     While I was standing there n the sandbar watching FC, a town truck pulled up and I was joined by its driver. He was one of the plow drivers that would be up for the next few days trying to keep the roads clear. He was out scouting the area making mental notes of the roads that would soon be covered with (hopefully not to much) snow.

     He was also a  photographer and he joined me for a few shots of the Gulls. He admittedly didn't know much about birds, but was learning. I told him about the Gulls, especially the two Kumlien's Iceland Gulls.

    While we were chatting, FC lost his perch to a focused Herring Gull!-

     We chatted for ten minutes, and then he had to leave. The 2nd cycle Iceland Gull swam back around the small exposed jetty.-

     While I was standing on the beach watching the Gull, and Eagle flew over causing all the Gulls to scatter.....

      .....but they all came back as the Eagle disappeared over the East River marsh-

     I drove down the road a short distance to Circle Beach, and the Gulls followed me, except the 2nd cycle and FC.

     I stopped by Fred's house, one of the owners of the beach and we chatted for a few minutes. The upcoming storm dominated our conversation. He looked up at the sky and said "Herring-bone sky"...."Its gonna' be a bad one!" I hope he is wrong!!

     My last stop of the day was nearby Hammonasset Beach State Park. I drove to Meigs first but there wasn't much there. So I decided to look in the cove at the Moraine Trail. There were only a few Gulls there, but what caught me eye was something I would have never expected. I saw this teenager standing around the rocks with his bike. I was trying to figure out what he was doing which suddenly became clear.

     The teenager picked up his mountain bike and placed it on top of this very large almost flat boulder. I was still scratching my head when he suddenly mounted his bike....

     .....and began hopping from boulder to boulder! What!!! I did a double-take just to see if I was seeing what I was seeing!!

     He started hopping from boulder to boulder and peddling up the sides of the larger sloped boulders. I am not sure what this is called, but my word for it is "NUTS"!! I have to admit he was good at this, and was glad to see a helmet on him at least, but I could envision a broken leg or arm. I decided that I would rather find a bird in the was much safer and much less stressful!

     I was walking down the path to East Beach, and I walked up on this Great Blue Heron. It was hunting the creek by the path, and it was only a few feet away from me.

     The Heron decided I was too close and it flew off....

     .....and it landed at the other end of the creek.-

     The last shot of the day as the storm clouds get ever closer!-

    Day 9,  Saturday, February 9, Killingworth- "Nemo for Breakfast"- Jen and I woke up as the snow had just started falling. The weather personalities on the radio and cable were forecasting five to eight inches for our area; that isn't too bad! So it snowed.....

     .....and snowed.....and snowed.....and snowed......

Day 10, Sunday, February 10- Killingworth- "Thanks a lot  NEMO"- "Good riddance"!!!-

     .....AND SNOWED!!!!!! by afternoon on Saturday, we realized that the snow was not going to stop! The forecasted five to eight inches had long since passed. They upgraded the amount expected to twelve inches...I had a feeling it was going to be a long night! I went out with the snowblower twice Saturday afternoon to (hopefully) get a head start on the snow. Maybe if I kept up with the snow, it would be easier when the storm passed? HA-HA!! The wind started Saturday afternoon, and with every gust that rattled the house, we knew the power would be going off any minute! The night was long. The winds were gusting to over sixty mph and it was a complete white-out looking through our windows.

     We didn't sleep much that night! Well, Sunday am., the power was still on!! That was amazing! As the morning light grew slowly, a wall of  twenty-seven inches of snow greeted us on our back deck!-

                    I know exactly what our cat Sherlocke is thinking!-

                It didn't look any better out our front door!-

             Sherlocke and Earle trying to figure this out. They looked at me as if to say-"We thought you said there was only going to be a foot of snow"? I told them to not blame me, blame the over-paid weather forecasting personalities...because they definitely got this one wrong!!

     Yeah, that's my big Dodge truck.....

     .....and Jen's Jeep.-

      Don't think we will be using the hot tub today!-

    I am so glad that I spent a few hours yesterday getting a start on the snow. Even after snowblowing our long driveway twice Saturday afternoon, we still had  two feet!-

     The snow was so deep by our garage doors, I had to use the small electric snow thrower to clear the area around the doors so I could get to my large snow blower.-

    For my friends in the South, on the West Coast and Beny and Merino in Costa Rica.......would you like some of this??

    Jen trying out the new snowblower. Its funny in a way, everyone told us that if we bought a new snowblower, it was a guarantee that it wouldn't snow! Uh-huh!!-

     Jen said "a foot of snow ?"

     The extent of or birding today. A glance at our nearly buried feeders as I passed by with the snowblower.-

        There is a satellite dish in there somewhere!-

    The snow pile near the end of our driveway was about six-feet deep. Surprisingly, no traffic.-

     Digging out our vehicles-

      After seven hours of clearing the driveway and digging out our vehicles, I had enough! At the end of the day, the winds dropped off a bit and the sun came out. AND...we still had our power! Good Night!-

     Day 11, Monday, February 11, Killingworth- "Still digging out"- All that was left to do for today was to clear off the back deck, snowblow the front walkway, clear off the front porch, and clear away the snow from around the bird feeders and an area to put cracked corn out for the deer.-

     After three more hours of digging out.....we were finally able to get out, so we took a ride down to Madison to see Jen's parents. In Meriden, my Mother was OK but still snowed in, but the plow guy was on his way. The sign on Route 1 near Neck Road pointing towards Circle Beach.-

     Heading down Neck Road-

     One of the private side streets off Neck Road to Jen's parents house......not plowed.-

    Back on Neck Road heading towards Circle Beach. I figured that Nemo probably pushed a few new Gulls into the Sound and Circle Beach. I couldn't wait to get there!-

      East River Marsh. All we had to do was to drive to that distant crane. It was close to Circle Beach.-

     Well not today! The last section of the road wasn't plowed.-

      Driving east down Route 1 by the Madison country club. Route 1 was in very bad shape.-

    On West Wharf Road, the only "coastal bird" of the day; a Red-tailed Hawk. These side roads were also in bad shape, most impassable and many not plowed. We were never able to get close enough to the Sound to see the water. We didn't see one Gull!-

     Back on Route 1....

    ...looking out over the western marshes of Hammonasset....

     .....and a most familiar sign-

     We knew the Park wouldn't be open, but it was nice just to get out.-

     Day 12-

    Day 12, Tuesday, February 12, Circle Beach (east)-  I decided to take a run down to Circle Beach, maybe the road would be plowed? Well, it wasn't, so I parked Jen's Jeep on the small plowed area on the side of the road. I walked the four hundred yards to the small beach (aka Circle Beach east). This is an interesting shot of the ice-crusted snow drift in the lot along the road looking out over the Sound.-

    When I got to the beach, the Gulls greeted me (I think they were hungry)!-

    FC hangs out near its favorite jetty-

     The 2nd cycle Kumlien's was still there....

     .....however, it flew off down towards Circle Beach.-

    FC hung around though.-

      A single drake Wigeon flies by with Lobster Rock in the background.-

     FC was again very accommodating for pictures-

     FC swims over a wave....

     .....good view of the ventral side of the tail and the lower tail coverts.... well as the angle of the crossed primaries.-

     It was still quite windy on the back side of the long departed storm. Faulkner's Island in the background.-

    Walking back to Jen's Jeep-

     The Gulls followed me all the way back to the Jeep.-

     Guilford Harbor, Guilford- I made a quick run to Guilford Harbor. The Herring Gulls were now dressed in full breeding plumage...gorgeous!-

     KC dropped in.-

     I couldn't resist a few shots of swimming Ring-billed Gulls. These were in the large puddle in the parking lot.These Gulls have a very appealing look with their high held wings and tail. Nice poses to carve a decoy--

     There were a few Hooded Mergansers in the harbor by the docks.-

                             Part 6, Day 13- "Open Water and Long Calls" continues........

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