New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Friday, January 18, 2013

Part 3- "A Winter Calender Image" - "The Icy Landscape of- a Landfill?"

     Day 5, Friday, December 28, Windsor/Bloomfield Landfill, Windsor, CT-  "From the Frozen High Arctic to Frozen Southern New England"- Well, I decided to try the Windsor Landfill! I am not really a birding snob, but to me birding at a landfill just doesn't hold the romance that birding at a naturally beautiful  location such as Beavertail, Race Point, or Sachem Head does. Its hard for me to compare the mounds of garbage and trash to the rolling dunes of the Cape or the granite bluffs of Rhode Island. I just had trouble grasping the concept. BUT! I know what you are thinking- if you are looking for Gulls, what better place! So why not!

     In the past this landfill has seen some amazing species of Gulls: Glaucous, Slaty-backed and Thayers. Since I was spending this time on a Gulling odyssey, a change of scenery might be fun (and it was). A few days ago, a Glaucous Gull was spotted at the landfill and it appears to be hanging around.

     I don't really travel north much, I tend to spend all my time along the coast. Other than a few visits to the Hospital to visit my Mother a few months ago, the last time I was in Hartford birding and the only time I was at the landfill was last winter looking for the Thayers Gull (which had the previous day). Not sure what to expect from the "morning rush". I decided to leave early to (hopefully) get through the city before the traffic started. Well I was successful pulling off exit 38 at 7:30 am. The landfill opens at 8:00 am so I had a half an hour to wait.

     Yesterday, we experienced rain along the coast. But when I was heading north on Route 9, the dry ground was replaced with snow. By the time I reached Hartford, the ground was covered with four inches of snow with a nice crust of ice on top. At 8:00 am, I drove through the gate, and I was the first one there.

     With the icy capped snow covering the rolling terrain of the landfill, it looked like a country field. It was actually quite picturesque; like an image on a winter calender. Since I was the first one there, I drove down the main road into the landfill and found a parking spot; a short plowed pull-off area paralleling the road. Just across the road from the small parking pull off was a Gull roost. And smack-dab in the middle; the Glaucous Gull! Wow, that was easy!!-

      The first truck came down the road just after I had taken a few pictures, and the Gulls chased after it.-

     Unfortunately (for the Gulls- and not for me) the truck was full of demolition, so the Gulls settled back in on another roost. While I was walking over to them, I was watching a flock of swarming Gulls over the distant refuge pile. I caught a glimpse of a first winter Iceland Gull just as it flew over the top of the pile. Unfortunately, I was never able to relocate it. But the nearly all white Glaucous Gull was much easier, it was again standing right in front of me.-

     With the approach of another truck, the Gulls took off to follow it. The Glaucous Gull stood out in the flock-

     Most of the Gulls flew to another spot in the landfill, but a few including the Glaucous Gull came back and landed nearly in the same spot.-

     Besides its white plumage, this species stands out by size alone especially its classic appearance of "too heavy" in the bow and "too cropped" in its stern.-

     It settled back in again-

     A very handsome second winter Glaucous Gull-

     Stretching its wings. The broad wings of the Glaucous Gull are very evident in these images-


     Yawning. This image clearly shows the upward "hinged" movement of the maxilla (or upper bill). The nasalfrontal hinge (see drawing below) allows the bill to open widely with a larger gape to facilitate swallowing large food items, etc. . This would not be possible if the maxilla was fixed. To understand this, look at the angle of the maxilla from the point of attachment at the head at the basal line of the bill at the lores (in front of the eye). Look at the tomium (or cutting edge of the bill) of the maxilla and follow it away from the head. You will notice that the tip of the maxilla is now positioned slightly above the eye on an imaginary line. Now compare that angle and bill tip location on the image of the Gull with a closed bill (two Gull images below)-

     The Gulls took off again when another truck came down the road......

     .....but it was also filled with demolition, so the Gulls flew back to their original roost on the hill where they were first thing in the morning-

      A few minutes later, the entire flock of Gulls took off again, but this time they flew around the landfill and then most of them flew off to the south including the Glaucous Gull.-

      I started walking back to the road when I saw Paul Wolter and Russ Smiley. They were set up on the road next to the small sparse brushy area looking back my way. I decided to walk to the right through the left edge of the brushy area instead of through the large icy puddle. As I walked through the sparse brush, a few Sparrows jumped out in front of me and flew towards them. I pointed to the birds and said "Sparrows" to Paul and Russ. I figured that they would be interested in them. Well as it turned out, it was reported yesterday that a Lark and Vesper Sparrows had been seen in this very brush pile! I didn't know this of course ( I was preoccupied with the Glaucous Gull), so that was one of my best "DUH" moments in birding!!

     They both were very gracious and forgave my birding blunder, and I joined them! :^) A few of the Sparrows from the brush pile (that I just walked through), Tree Sparrow-

     Song Sparrow (left) and Vesper Sparrow (right)-

     Vesper Sparrow-

     And the Lark Sparrow. I have to admit, this is a beautiful Sparrow!-

     Song Sparrow-

     Vesper Sparrow-

        Vesper Sparrow. This Sparrow perched on the top of this pipe often-

     Song (left) and Lark Sparrow (right)-

      While we were enjoying the Sparrows, a flock of Horned Larks flew over-

     Russ leaving with a portion of the Gull roost behind him.-

     We were also joined by Sara Zagorski (left) for the Sparrows. Paul Wolter (right)-

     The Gulls had filtered back in, and Paul relocated the Glaucous Gull on a refuge pile (that was just delivered). So since I was photographing Gulls in a landfill, here are a few "refuge pile" shots-

     The Gulls eventually settled back in on the hill, including the Glaucous......

    .....but not for long. another truck came and they were off again-

     And after ten minutes, they all came back again.

      The Glauclous Gull seemed that it couldn't make up its mind, it kept flying from spot to spot, but eventually came back to the main Gull roost near where my truck was parked.-

     More Gulls arriving from the south-

          Head study of this Glaucous Gull showing its characteristically large oval shaped head with somewhat sloping forehead. The bill is long and straight bill with a smaller gonydial angle giving it a less bulged appearance at the tip.-

     The primaries appear short, and extend just beyond the tip of the tail-

      Head studies and comparisons of different Glaucous Gulls. This image is from the landfill second winter Gull-

     Hampton Harbor, NH adult Gull-

   Gloucester, Mass. first winter Gulls. This all white Gull was a smaller bird and was a little smaller than a Herring Gull-

        This all white first winter Gull was enormous! It was slightly larger than a Greater Black-backed Gull.

     A third all white first winter Gull that was normal in size.-

     After leaving the landfill, and since I would be following the CT. River all the way home, I decided to stop at every good Gulling spot I knew along the way. In Hartford: Riverside Park, Wethersfield: Wethersfield Cove, Cromwell: Cromwell Meadows, the old Cromwell Yacht Club boat ramp, Middletown: WTP,  
Harbor Park, Shop Rite parking lot, Higganum: Landing Road, Higganun Reservoir, Haddam: Haddam Meadows, East Haddam: Eagles Landing, Goodspeed docks, Goodspeed Airport, Salmon River Cove (note: there were over fifty Robins eating berries in the trees along the entrance road to the boat ramp), Chester: Chester boat ramp, Ferry slip (note: there were nearly one hundred in the small field by the ferry slip), and Pattaconk Cove,  Deep River: Deep River town landing. With the exception of the one Bald Eagle flying along the river in Deep River, I saw very few Gulls in all locations.

     Addendum: A week ago (first week of January 2013)  I received a commission from a collector of mine who lives in Toronto. He decided that he wanted me to carve him a few more decoys for his collection and one of them was a Glaucous Gull; talk about irony! This is a commission that I am really excited about. I am rarely offered Gull commissions let alone a Glaucous Gull. And to make the commission more interesting, he wants the Gull to be made and painted as a first or second winter bird. Below is the sketch of the head for the carving. Soon I will be featuring this bird on this blog throughout the entire process from its inception through the carving process and then to the painting and finishing. 


Day 5- Sunday, December 30, Wethersfield Cove, Wethersfield CT-  "Post Nor'easter- Windy Wings"-  
The Nor'easter was moving into New England, and all the reports indicated that we would only be receiving FOUR to six inches of snow........

     .....and first thing in the morning....we had FOURteen inches of snow on the ground! (No sarcastic comment here)!! The first bird of the day at 7:00 am was a Junco which left its wing prints in the snow-

       The trails left behind by deer.....

     ......which had a taste for sunflower seeds!-

      Well, there was a good side to having over a foot of snow, I finally got to try out our brand new snow blower, and it worked great! So after two hours of clearing off my truck and Jen's Jeep, and doing our long driveway and walkways, we had the entire day to spend birding and do a little grocery shopping.

     Since we were going north to Stew Leonards in Newington, a few side trips in the area would be perfect. Our first stop was Wethersfield Cove. However, it was mid-morning and the Gull numbers in the Cove were small; not much there other than a handful of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.

     It was reported on CT Birds yesterday that two Iceland Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were sighted in a Gull roost at the Comcast Theater's parking lot in Hartford. After leaving the Cove we drove north on 91 for the Theatre. Because of the snow I thought it was possible that the parking lot wouldn't be plowed, but maybe it would be? It wasn't! Even the road into Riverside Park was untouched...there went our Gulling for the morning!

   We did our shopping at Stew Leonards and Sam's Club (who had fantastic India Mangoes) and started for home. It was later in the afternoon, so Jen suggested going back to Wethersfiled Cove on the way home. I am glad she suggested it. When we drove into the deep snow of the parking lot (thanks to 4-wheel drive) the sky was filled with Gulls returning to the roost in the Cove.-

     It was really windy! The wind shifted to the northwest and was gusting over 30 knots, which made the temps drop considerably! Many of the Gulls were in the water, and many were crouched on the ice trying their best to head off the strong gusty wind. As I was preparing my orange bucket...Jen told me that she found an Iceland Gull. It was standing on the ice about fifty yards out.-

                Part 3  Wethersfield Cove "Post Nor'easter -Windy Wings" Continues.........

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