New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Part 4- Day 8- "Larids to Start the New Year"

     Day 8, Tuesday, January 1, 2013!! Back to Rhode Island, Scarborough Beach, Narragansett- 
Happy New Year!! With the new year arriving like a stooping Peregrine with a tail wind, Jen and I started our new year off in Rhode Island. When we left home just after dawn, the sky was clear, but the horizon to the the East showed an overcast sky. By the time we arrived at Scarborough Beach, the clouds had set in and the moderate northwest winds added a deeper chill to the air.

     We walked across the snow crusted field towards the southeast corner where the outporing from the Water Treatment Plant is located. Where this small outporing meets the sea, a small cove is formed between a small rocky jetty and the long rocky reef point to the south.  This cove area and the rocky reef  are where the Black-headed Gulls like to hang out. When we got to the edge of the field overlooking the beach, we noticed that only a handful of Ring-billed Gulls were standing on the beach to the left. It was low tide, and normally there would be at least a few dozen Gulls on the beach many walking along the edge of the water. And often with the Ring-billed Gulls the Black-headed Gulls would be in the group. With the Gulls absent on the beach, it was probable that the Black-headed Gulls were on the rocky reef.

    Just as we were ready to walk down to the beach,  and for some reason, I looked up. In a moment of perfect timing, I spotted a single small-ish Gull flying across the water outside the cove. We were just in time to see a single Black-headed Gull flying just to the south of us. It lifted up and flew directly over us. My first thought was that the Gull would be flying into the sedimentation tanks in the WTP that was behind us. However the Gull kept flying west heading towards Point Judith Pond. Even though the looks at the Gull were brief, it was a great way to start the year off.-

     There were quite a few Gulls on the reef, and quite a few Ring-billed Gull in the sedimentation tanks behind us. With a bit of coaxing, the sky was soon filled with Gulls-


    Jen decided to stay on top at the edge of the field, and I walked down the beach to the small rock jetty. Just as I got to the water, Jen said that she had a banded Gull standing in front of her. The Gull was one of the Ring-billed Gulls from Professor Jean-Francois Giroux's Gull Study from the University of Quebec Montreal.

     The letters on the blue leg marker were FMK.-

     (Later I sent Professor Giroux the recovery information) and the report stated: This is an adult female Gull. It was banded on 5/01/10 at Ile Deslauriers, Varennes, Quebec. Band #- 0954-14991, leg marker blue with white letters: FMK. This was the first reported sighting of this Gull since it was banded, and it was also the first reported Gull of 2013.-

     Jen also found another adult Ring-billed Gull that was beautifully tinged with a salmon colored stain to its white plumage (similar to the one Black-headed Gull I photographed here last week-image second below), Unfortunately, the bright and glowing salmon color tinging does not show in the images; it was much brighter than the Black-headed Gull image below.-

    I left the group of Gulls that had formed around Jen, and started back to the edge of the water by the rock jetty. I changed the settings on my camera just in time as this first winter Iceland Gull swam up in front of me-

     Good view showing its longer primary projection-

     This Gull was very quick and agile compared to the larger and heavier Herring Gulls-

     You can see in this image that the nasal frontal hinge of the maxilla is not being used for a simple grasp of a small portion of food. The maxilla is in its normal position judging by the line of its tomium and the amount of its gape opening. The tip of its maxilla remains below the eye line in its normal position.-

     Classic profile of a swimming Iceland Gull-

      Excellent front view of this Gull.Since Gulls are essentially a predatory bird, its eyes are located forward of the center of its head, and its eye set is angled forward over its bill. This "forward angled" eye set allows the bird to see more forward unlike prey species that have eyes that are located more on the sides of the head. which helps the bird look for danger while feeding or resting. -

     Classic posture as the Gull prepares to take off. Notice the width of the shoulders (located where the wing meets the side pocket just above the water line). The proximal section of the wing from the shoulder to the elbow (along the humerus-where the axillaries articulate from) angle inward. The distal section of the wing from the elbow to the wrist (radius and ulna -where the secondaries and tertials articulate from), and the wrist (where the primaries articulate from) curve and angle outward. This high wing posture will aid in the maximum lift on the down stroke-

     A little territorial dispute between this Herring Gull and the Iceland Gull-

     The Iceland Gull may have thought it out maneuvered the Herring Gull....

     .....until the Herring Gull grabbed it by the tail-

     Coast is clear!!-

     It appeared the Iceland Gull was going to take off.....

     .....but it settled in again.-

     In the meantime, the tinged Ring-billed Gull returned. (unfortunately, the vivid salmon tinging still doesn't show up in the images).-

     The Iceland Gull decided to fly up the bank and join the other Gulls with Jen.-

     It stayed a few minutes, and then flew back down to the beach......

     ......and landed on the small rock jetty-

     Half a dozen Great Cormorants-

     Galilee Harbor- The Harbor was very quiet. Besides a small gathering of the usual Gulls (still no Glaucous), there were a few Harbor Seals looking for a few handouts. Unfortunately, the handouts weren't coming, it was New years Day and the fleet was quiet; tucked into port!-

     Hazard Avenue, Narragansett- I walked down the path onto the ledges and giant granite boulders along the shoreline. I looked through the small gathering of about a hundred Gulls roosting about halfway between Hazard and Newton Avenues. Other that the usual three species, the roost didn't include any winter transients. But there were half a dozen Razorbills diving along the shore, and a single bird flying to the south.-

     Grassy Cove, Ninigret Park, Charlestown- The last stop on the way home was our usual spot: Grassy Point, Ninigret Park. We walked down the path to the point where we could see the cove through the scrub. It wasn't hard to find the Lesser Black-backed Gull (aka- the brat). It was perched on its usual boulder across the cove to the northeast.-

    There were quite a few Sparrows along the trail including Tree Sparrows-

     As soon as we walked down onto the beach by the trail bench, the Gull came flying-

     Excellent shot showing the bright yellow legs-

     It landed only a few yards off the beach, and right in front of my lens-

     The classic long look of this Gulls profile is obvious in this image-

       Again, notice the eye set angle?-

     Another great view showing the long profile and the long primary projection of this species.-

      With a Bonaparte's Gull for comparison-

     First winter Bonaparte's Gull-

     A real brute! An adult male Greater Black-backed Gull-

      A few more first winter Bonaparte's Gull images-

     This is the first time I have seen an Eider this far up into the salt pond.-

     It was getting late and started getting dark with the overcast sky. Jen pointed to the west and said there was an Egret flying over the pond. Being late in the season for Egrets, I thought maybe she was seeing a Great Blue Heron. But when I looked up, there it was, a Great Egret!-

      That was an unexpected, but welcomed way to end this long and excellent day of birding!

     Part 5, Day 9 on "Older Posts" below right-