New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Part 5, Day 9 - "A Noteworthy Gull"

UNDER CONSTRUCTION! Please check back in a few days for the finished report. Thanks, Keith!

     Day 9, Thursday, January 3, 2013! Circle Beach. Madison, CT-  I received an email a few days ago from Mona Cavallero who is known to many of us CT birders. Her boyfriend Mike Berzenski and his family from CT and from Miami were getting together for a family reunion and to do some CT birding. One of the birds of interest for the day was the Circle Beach Iceland Gull.

     I mentioned to Mona that the Gull isn't always cooperative by being visible from the road or on the beach. It often spends part of its day farther down the beach to the east behind the large homes where access is unavailable. But the Gull and I have an understanding, I should be able to bring the Gull up close on the beach so everyone could have great looks at this spectacular bird. We agreed to meet at the beach around noon. When I got to the beach, they were already there. Just as I pulled up, Mike was looking up into the sky to the north over the marsh. An adult Bald Eagle was circling overhead getting closer with each wide circle.-

     While everyone was watching the Eagle, I walked down onto the beach to get ready for the Iceland Gull. I didn't have long to wait, I looked up and there it was!-

     The Gull followed its usual routine and landed on the roof of the cottage after it made a wide pass over the beach.-

     Everyone joined me on the beach and I was happy to point out that the Gull was standing on the roof overlooking everyone! The Gull was looking down and was checking us out as well. I stayed there for a few minutes, and then flew down to its favorite spot on the beach; in the corner by the small seawall next to the cottage.-

     The Gull gave us all plenty of great looks that were often a little bit challenging when it mingled with the hundreds of other Gulls. But by careful searching it was easy to find thanks to its glowing white plumage and those bright white primaries. Many times the Gull was only a few feet in front of everyone in the water, it was just hard to pick out in all of those screaming Gulls.

     After a half an hour the Gull flew back to its rooftop perch where it remained as everyone left. I was really happy that Mona and her friends and family had the opportunity to see and enjoy this special Gull!-

      An interesting note. The number of Gulls on Circle Beach has grown to between two hundred fifty and three hundred. Today I estimated the Gull numbers to be near or over five hundred birds! This is the most Gulls that I had seen on the beach ever. I have no idea where they all came from? In fact Mona mentioned to me, it looked like there were more Gulls here than at the landfill! No wonder it was so challenging finding the Iceland Gull in this crowd. I also searched through the group for any other possible species such as a Lesser Black-backed, or a Herring Gull with yellow legs, but I couldn't find any....just Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.

     The image below shows less than half the number of Gulls on the beach this day. They stretched the entire length of this small beach. I couldn't fit them all in my lens.-

        From left to right: Susan, Mona, Will, Debbie, David and Mike.


     Day 10, Friday, January 4, 2013- Circle Beach- I met up with John Schwarz  this morning. John was going to be back in CT for a few days from his winter residence in Florida. He wanted to photograph the Iceland Gull to add to his amazing list of birds and to add a few fabulous images to his site:
 (  We agreed to meet early in the morning, just after sun up.

     I was a bit early so I could hopefully locate the Gull for John when he arrived. Again that was easy to do, the Gull showed up as soon as I stepped foot on the beach. The Gull made the usual circle over the beach and then landed on the peak of the roof of the cottage.-

     The Gull remained on the roof as John arrived. He was able to get a good look at the Gull (although backlit from the morning  sun) for a few minutes before it took off from the roof.-

     It flew right down onto the beach in front of John and I and joined the gathering of Gulls-

     The Gull gave quite a show from flying around the beach, walking on the beach and swimming just off the beach-

      But my main point of interest changed when another wing tagged/banded Ring-billed Gull landed right in front of me on the beach. Having taken thousands of images of the Iceland Gull, I was excited to see another tagged Gull this week. I knew immediately that this Gull was one of Ken MacKenzie's Gulls from the Mass. Program. Its  patagial tag read "A 792". John continued to focus on the Iceland Gull, and I focused on this tagged Gull.-

      Looks like the Iceland Gull was feeling left walked right in front of me while I was photographing the tagged Gull-

      I received the report a few days later from this Gulls history: Ring-billed Gull "A 792" is an adult female and was captured and banded December 3, 2012 at the South Bay Center in Boston. Band # 0894-68499. and red leg marker # 337.

     An hour later, the sun was up and the sky was a clear blue. This Cerulean Blue sky added a spectacular backdrop for this stunning nearly all white bird.-

     John focusing on the Iceland Gull-

     In one instance, the Iceland Gull walked up higher onto the beach and began eating snow! This is the first time I have seen this Gull do this. It obviously was craving fresh water.-

     John waiting for the Gull to move into better light......

     .....which it did.-

     A little bit of artistic color dynamics......the orange tag of the Gull is the same color value and hue as the catfood bucket. Natural color bounce!-

      John with part of the Gulls on the beach. I did a quick rough count of the Gulls, I ended up with 360 +/-. Not as many as yesterday, but more than have been there. It looks like the flock is slowly building. Now if they would just bring a few more Iceland, maybe a Glaucous or a Lesser Black-backed with them, that would be just fine with me!-

     Besides the Gull, there were plenty of ducks flying this morning, including many small flocks of Common Goldeneye (I didn't see any Barrows)-

     It was obvious that many of the fresh water ponds and lakes were freezing judging by this small flock of Common Mergansers (and one drake Red-breasted Merganser- lower left) that flew along the beach.

     Two pair of Common Mergansers and the single drake Red-breasted Merganser (center)-

      This one caught me completely off guard. As I watched the Common/Red-breasted Mergansers fly out of sight to the west, this drake Hooded Merganser flew off the Sound and into the East River marsh. Not bad! Three species of Mergansers within a minute of each other standing in the same spot!-

     It was an exceptional morning. John and I said our good-byes, and the sparkling bright blue sky had now been over run with dark ominous clouds.

Please check out Johns site (link above) and see his incredible list of birds and amazing photographs.

     Guilford Harbor, Guilford-  After I left John, I had to run to Walmart for a few supplies. Since I was nearby, I stopped by Guilford Harbor on my way home. There were a few Gulls in the parking lot and on the sand bars on Grass Island. There were also a few flocks of Brant-

     I looked down at the Gulls that were surrounding my truck, and there was another banded Gull! This banded Ring-billed Gull was from Professor Giroux's Gull Program from the University of Quebec, Montreal. This was the second Gull found between Jen and I  from that program in a weeks time.-

     The data from this Gull: This Ring-billed Gull is an adult female. It was captured and banded on May 5, 2009 at Ile Deslauriers, Varennes, Quebec. Leg band # 0954-13727, and yellow leg marker "CCK".

     Day 11, Sunday, January 6 - Long Wharf, New Haven Harbor- "More banded Gulls"- We decided to take a ride this afternoon for a cup of coffee and watch the sun go down over the Sound. The day was spectacular without a cloud in the sky. As I always do, I have to stop at Long Wharf.....just to take a peek at the Gulls. It was low tide and that meant many of the Gulls would be roosting on the bars along the shore. We pulled into one of the small parking areas, and started looking through the Gulls, maybe a Iceland Gull would be relaxing among the nearly two hundred (mostly) Ring-billed Gulls? Jen looked to the south, and I looked to the north. Immediately, I spotted another bright orange wing tag.-

      I thought at first it might have been the same Gull I spotted in Madison a few days earlier. But when I looked at the tag, it was a new number "A 651".-

     The report for this Gull: This adult female Gull was captured and banded on January 5, 2012 at the Worcester Hotel and Conference Center. It has been re-sighted five times in Worcester, Massachusetts  from January to March 2012. This was the first sighting of this Gull in CT. Band # 0994-04399, and red leg marker #136.-

Guilford Harbor, Guilford-  On our way home we made a quick run to Guilford Harbor. The parking lot at the boat ramp was already busy with Gulls, and we didn't have long to wait before Jen spotted another banded Gull.-

     This Gull only showed a single US F&W leg band-

     It was followed by Ring-billed Gull "CCK" which I found on Thursday-

      I wasn't able to read the complete numbers on the band, just the second sequence- "- 46485" -

     The late afternoon light was illuminating the Gulls with a warm orange glow-

     Both banded birds standing together-

     Circle Beach, Madison- Jen and I were going to stop at Jen's parents house, so with the last shimmer of light from the end of the day holding on, we made a quick run down the road to "tuck-in" the Iceland Gull. The Gull was already thinking the same thing, because it was snuggled in on the roof of the cottage. It was also blanketed in the warm glow of the last bit of sunlight for the day.-

    It also let the Herring Gull know that it wasn't welcomed to share the rooftop with it.-

     IT started getting a bit crowded, so the Iceland Gull moved to another roof top-

      That rooftop soon became crowded, and the Iceland Gull wasn't happy with the arrangements.-

     But it put up with it!-

     The rest of the Gulls just enjoyed the beach as the last light of the day disappeared over the Guilford shore.-

Part 6, Day 12- "Back to Rhode Island". "West Passage and the South County Shore" continues........

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