New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Part 8, Day 15, Saturday, January, 12, Rhode Island "Drizzle, Fog and Three Black-Headed Gulls"

     Three Black-Headed Gulls in Two States"  ".....or maybe Four Gulls"?

     Day 15, Saturday, January, 12, Rhode Island- Scarborough Beach, Narragansett, Rhode Island- I had quite a bit of sanding to do this morning, but I really wasn't in the mood to do it. So I needed a distraction, and there is no better distraction than a ride to Rhode Island for a little birding. The day was a bit gloomy with light rain and drizzle, but it was still better than being locked in my studio with sand paper.

     We started at Scarborough Beach. I really enjoy watching Black-headed Gulls and this is a good place to do that. The two Black-headed Gulls have been unusually timid lately, so I wanted to see if we could get better looks at them this time.

     With the light rain and drizzle, maybe fewer people would be on the beach this morning, and their were. We were the only ones there. Immediately, I spotted one of the Black-headed Gulls swimming in the small cove just out from the WTP outpouring.-

    This Gull swam very close to us passing over the occasional roller-

     After five minutes, it took off  and few right by us.....

     .....making a few circles overhead.....

     .....and flying towards the other Gulls that were on the beach just north of the small rock jetty.-

     A few small flock of Sanderlings flew over the surf and landed on the beach with the Gulls-

     I thought the Black-headed Gull had landed with the other Gulls on the beach. It came around again and then circled around us again.-

     While the Black-headed Gull was flying around the area, a few Bonaparte's Gulls came from off the disturbed sea to the south and began feeding along the shoreline.-

     Striking adult-

     The Bonaparte's Gulls joined the gathering of Gulls on the beach-

     Jen was standing above me on the edge of the field. She pointed down to the Gull group and there was the Iceland Gull (right)-

     The Iceland Gull (left)-

     More Bonaparte's Gulls land in the group-

     While I was photographing the Bonaparte's Gull flying into the Gulls (left), the Black-headed Gull flew into my image (right)....

     .....and I lost it! I thought at first the Gull on the left was a Bonaparte's Gull. But when I looked at it through my binoculars, it was the second adult Black-headed Gull.

     The original Black-headed Gull returned as it flew in along the waters edge. It must have turned to the east while I was watching it, which explained why I lost sight of it in my camera lens......

     .....the original Black-headed Gull lands on the edge of the sea wash.-

      Two Black-headed Gulls; one extreme right and the other extreme left-

      This Black-headed Gull which is larger (possible a male) feed along the sea wash-

     It make s a very Bonaparte sounding call-

     Interesting preening images-

     The second Black-headed Gull that was standing higher on the beach walks down toward the other Gull (that is out of the image on the right). This Gull is much smaller than the larger Gull, probably a female.-

     This smaller Gull takes off and flies towards the WTP. It circles the sedimentation tanks and then returns to the beach area flying right past Jen and I.-

     It eventually flies over the WTP and continues west flying towards Point Judith pond.-

     A few more Bonaparte's Gulls fly off the sea from the south and land on the beach-

     This Herring Gull walks down the beach with its prized possession: a Skate egg case.-

     All the Gulls soon took off from the beach and flew in all directions. Many of the Ring-billed Gulls flew into the sedimentation tanks of the WTP, some flew up into the parking lot by the pavilion, and some flew down to the rocky point reef which was nearly underwater. I took a walk down to see if I could find the Black-headed Gull that was on the beach (the probable male).

     Since the rocky point was almost entirely covered, I only saw a few Gulls standing on the few remaining rocks above the waves. I spotted a small group of rafted ducks down the shoreline towards Point Judith. I also noticed a few Gulls spread out along the shoreline. About sixty yards down the shore I spotted two small Gulls swimming high over the breaking waves. One I immediately recognized as one of the Black-headed Gulls, the other one which was much smaller, I just assumed was a Bonaparte's Gull.-

     The two Gulls swam around for a few minutes and then they both left. The larger of the two Gulls flew straight north up the coast towards Narragansett, and the smaller Gull went due south heading towards the Point Judith Lighthouse. An interesting side note- when both Gulls took off , they both showed dark under primaries. I just assumed the smaller Bonaparte's Gull was just showing this from the dark back lighting form the overcast skies.

     The most interesting part came later at home when I was downloading and culling the images from the day. I enlarged this image and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Both Gulls had red Bills with a dark tip.

     To back-up my findings, I sent this image to two known Gull experts in CT, and they both agreed, there are tow Black-headed Gulls in this image; one much smaller than the other. Does that mean three Black-headed Gulls?

     I went back to all the images of the Black-headed Gulls I have taken at Scarborough Beach since late December, the first day I found the Gull on the rocky point. I evaluated and compared features such as facial markings (jowl spots and pileum strap markings), proportionate size, bill and plumage coloration. The Gull in the foreground in this image is very small by comparison to the larger Gull behind it. Both birds (although not obvious in the image) have the salmon tinged coloration to its plumage. The jowl spot and pale pileum straps of the large bird, along with the pink tinging to its plumage.....

     .....match exactly the large Black-headed Gull I photographed in late December on the rocky point (below)-

     Her is the same large Black-headed Gull I photographed on January 8. It has the same markings and tinged plumage as the above image-

     However, the second Gull I photographed earlier on the beach is also a smaller bird with a darker red bill, but it has absolutely no salmon colored tinging to its white breast, chest and flanks or any on the base of its "white blades" of the primaries that the Gull in the above image does. 

     Looks like there are three adult Black-headed Gulls at Scarborough Beach-

Point Judith-  Jen and I took a ride to Camp Cronin in hopes of seeing the Lesser Black-backed Gull that just about everyone in Rhode Island has seen often numerous times, and of course we have yet to!!-

    One of a few small flocks of Black Scoter coming out of the fog-

     Looking back at our car showing the bluff that was caused by strong erosion from the hurricane.-

     And what force the sea has, We often overlook this force, but looking at the huge breakwater boulders that were tossed around like marbles, everything gets put into perspective!!-

Galilee Harbor- 
  After striking out again with the Lesser Black-backed Gull, we headed over to the Harbor....maybe this would be the day for the Glaucous Gull. A few vessels were coming back into port, but not many Gulls were hanging on the sterns-

     Plenty of Greater Black-backed Gulls in the Harbor, in fact every fish tote or barrel had at least one Greater Black-backed Gull prying away at the Skates that were in them-

      But still no Glaucous Gull, but there was one Bonaparte's Gull!-

     Narragansett Town Pier- Jen and I drove up to Narragansett for a look around before heading home. We looked around the pier and and watched three Bonaparte's Gulls feeding right at the boat ramp-

     While we were enjoying the Gulls, this Red-throated Loon swam into the picture-

     And so did this Common Loon adult-

     Good study images of a Bonaparte's Gull if you were carving a decoy-

     And for a contented Red-throated Loon-

     A few more close-ups of a Bonaparte's Gull-

Newton Avenue, Narragansett- While we were there, I had to take a quick look off Newton Avenue. A large flock of Common Goldeneye swam around the point and then took off-

     No Barrows here!-

     Barn Island WMA, Stonington, CT- We were going to stop at Ninigret to see "the brat" on the way home. We decided to have lunch at the Cove Restaurant in Charlestown (good chowder and sandwiches) and figure out what we wanted to do. I checked my Blackberry when we got back into the car, and found Sara Zagorski's report that the Black-headed Gull was seen off the boat ramp at Barn Island. Jen had never been to Barn Island so she suggested we go.

    I emailed Sara to find out how long ago she saw the Gull, and she replied about an hour ago. Since we were only twenty-five minutes away, there was still a chance that the Gull was still close to the ramp.

     We drove down the long road to the boat ramp and soon we were there. But there were only three Gulls near the ramp, and none of them were the Black-headed.

     Jen and I got out of the car and looked around. I spotted a single Gull flying way across the marsh flying along the woods on the back side of the Pawcatuck River. I said to Jen, I think that white speck in the distance is the Gull; its flying like one.-

      The Gull started flying towards us, but still in the distance. As it got closer, it was the Black-headed Gull.-

     It landed on a rock just across the cove near a few other Gulls-

    The Gull suddenly took off from the rock and flew directly towards us-

     It circled around in front of us.......

     .....and landed in the creek next to a small group of Red-breasted Mergansers-

     I wanted to see if this Gull would respond to tossed catfood, and it did!-

     The Gull flew right over our heads and circled the area as the other Gulls were arriving-

      After a few attempts at the floating kibble, the Gull retreated to the distant impoundment and landed with the three Great Egrets-

      The Black-headed Gull extreme left-

     But it only stayed a few minutes, it was soon heading back to the boat ramp.....

     .....where it joined the other Gulls-

     Good sequence of shots with the Gull grasping the food with great accuracy-

     After the Gull had its sufficiency, it flew off to the first impoundment and landed (again) with the three Egrets. Another beautiful adult Black-headed Gull and four for the day in two States!-

     On the way home in Old Saybrook, CT we were driving along Route 1 by the High School. Jen looked over and said there was a light colored Goose in the flock of Canada Geese feeding on the soccer field. I never saw the Goose, but by Jen's description I thought it might be a juvenile Snow Goose. It ended up being a partially leucistic Canada Goose-

       Keith and Jen Mueller, Killingworth

     Now that I have FINALLY finished all these reports, I thought I would like to end them with a few book and DVD suggestions.

    This first book "One Man's Island" is probably my favorite book in my entire book collection. I bought my first copy of this  book around 1990, a few years after its release. Since then, I have purchased a few more copies mostly because they have become tattered from so much use, and I am always afraid that I won't be able to find another copy.

Keith Brockie is a Scottish naturalist/illustrator who specializes in sea birds. His sketches and narratives are compelling. He is one of my greatest influences in my art. Everyone who loves seabirds and art should have a copy of this book. They can be found for a good price on may of the used book searches. I have found many for under $10.

     Well, late last year, some twenty-eight years later Keith Brockie came out with his follow-up book to "One Man's Island" entitled "Return to One Man's Island"- the Paintings and Sketches from the Isle of May.

     The book is filled with beautiful sketches and illustrations which is complimented by the corresponding narratives. Its another gem!!-

     For those who want to learn more about Gulls, here are a few recommendations-

     The DVD series.....These two are Excellent!!!

     And these "Life Histories of North American Birds" Individual species accounts are available from Buteo Books.