New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Part 7- Saturday March 3/Sunday March 4- “White-winged Gulls in Three States in One Day”!

New Hampshire coast/Gloucester/Madison, CT

With my favorite winter birding season winding down (a bit too early and a bit too warm) there are still a few birding events to look forward to in early spring: the return of the Bonaparte’s Gulls (with hopefully a Little Gull or two), the return of the Shorebirds and Terns, the opening of Haddock/Cod season off Gloucester (and of course Kittiwakes, early Shearwaters, Fulmars and another possible Sabine’s Gull), the opening schedule of early whale watching off Provincetown (with good opportunities for lingering White-winged Gulls and newly arriving Gulls and Seabirds), spring staging of Common Eiders, and the last chance for wintering Alcids on the Rhode Island Pelagic trip on March 24 (link to last years trip: ).

     Jen and I have been doing quite a bit of late winter coastal birding through February, and as a result, I am way behind on my reports and have been playing “catch-up” all month. There had been many good reports coming from the New Hampshire coast of many exciting species including Snowy Owls and a Pacific Loon near Hampton Beach,  an adult Glaucous Gull (which I photographed last April-images below) at Hampton Harbor, 

a drake Barrows Goldeneye at Great Boar’s Head, and a wintering Cape May Warbler at Odiorne Point. We decided to drive up to New Hampshire on Friday, and stay over for Saturday. But the forecast for Friday night and Saturday was rain, while Sunday was going to be clear, we held off for a day and drove up on Saturday noon.

     We left Killingworth around noon in a steady rain; I hope the N H weather was right! Driving north on 395, the rain let up by the time we crossed the Worcester line. By the time we reached 495 the roads were dry; maybe we would get a break! It was 3:30 in the afternoon as we drove up Ocean New Hampshire, and the Hampton bridge appeared in the distance. The parking lot on the left near the Yankee Fisherman’s Coop is the location where the Glaucous Gull usually hangs out. It is usually standing proudly on the small cupola on top of the bath house building half way up the parking lot. As we drove into the parking lot, we didn’t see the Gull; in fact we only saw a handful of Gulls nearby.  

    The tide was incoming half way between low and high. The outer sandbars were covered and there were quite a few clammers digging along the waters edge working the sand as long as they could. There wasn’t a single Gull on the beach, only a few standing on the roof and light poles near the Coop. I decided to try and entice the few Gulls in the area to the parking lot hopefully the Glaucous Gull would be with them.  With the first tossed handful of catfood, the first Gulls came in a hurry; they were hungry. They  obliged us perfectly landing on the parking lot a few yards from our truck. With the second and third handful of kibbles came more Gulls, and by now there were two dozen surrounding our truck. As I tossed the fourth handful, I looked up just in time to see a pair of ghostly white wings flying by a few feet in front of me and by the front of my truck. As I picked up my camera, the bird was gone. But Jen got a front row seat view as the stunning adult Glaucous Gull skimmed by the hood of our truck. We were parked just south of the bath house, and I lost the bird as it flew over the roof and then disappeared.

     Jen pointed up the parking lot to the north by the entrance to the Coop, and there was the Gull perched on top of a light pole.

     The Glaucous Gull was perched for only a few moments before it was pushed off by a territorial Herring Gull.

     The Gull flew right down the parking lot right over my head.

     It zeroed in on its favorite perch atop the cupola of the bath house pushing off a Herring Gull that had ideas about perching there as well.

     A great big yawn!

      A very handsome Gull indeed!

     While the Glaucous Gull perched atop the bath house, the other Gulls that I had enticed to the area started to gather on the beach. The Glaucous Gull didn’t perch for long as I offered the other Gulls a few more handfuls. It circled the beach once…..

      …..and landed on the parking lot next to our truck only a few feet from Jen.

        The Gull took off again, circled the beach and then landed with the other Gulls.

      (Notice the darker mantled Herring Gull to the left of the Glaucous Gull).

  With the other Gulls.

     After the Gulls fed for a fifteen minutes, the Glaucous Gull lifted up in flight and flew over Ocean Blvd.

    I watched it fly over the houses and cottages and disappear heading for the beach south of the Hampton inlet. Jen and I drove over towards the beach on Campton St. near Ocean Dr. with two quests in mind; to look for the Gull and to search for one of the two Snowy Owls that had been spending the winter in the area. The two Owls had chosen the rooftop roosts one north of the Hampton inlet and the other south of the Hampton inlet. We slowly searched the rooftops up and down all the side streets without much luck. While Jen was looking up she spotted the Glaucous Gull flying west heading back to Hampton Harbor.

     When we arrived back to the parking lot, there was a swarm of Gulls circling the beach. It looked like we had timed it perfectly as “Bob the bread-man” was there at his usual scheduled time, and the Gulls were waiting! It wasn’t hard to find the Glaucous Gull; it flew in almost immediately.

      The Gulls moved around the beach quite a bit (following Bob) both walking and flying.

 With their crops full of bread, many of the Gulls including the Glaucous Gull needed a drink to wash the dry bread down.

     While in the water, why not take a good bath?

    Wing stretch.

     And groom a bit!

     After spending an hour with the Gull, we said good-bye to this gorgeous Gull! There was a little time remaining in the day to look for banded “Appledore Island Gulls”
( ) at Hampton Beach. We stopped just north of Hampton Beach State Park and saw a large group of Gulls on the beach. In that group we found one banded “Appledore” second winter Herring Gull with the green leg marker band #T20.

     Looking north up the beach with large surf caused by a stiff easterly wind.

     At the other end of the beach about a half a mile up Ocean Blvd. is Great Boar’s Head where the drake Barrows Goldeneye was being seen.  When we pulled off the road to search for the Barrows, we only found Common Goldeneyes,

     and a few flocks of Oldsquaw.

     As the day wound down to a close, we stopped at the North Hampton sea wall just as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for the first time that day. We ran into Bob again! He had attracted another group of Gulls including this banded second winter “Appledore” Herring Gull with green leg marker band #P02.

     With the last light of the day dwindling, we drove back to the Yankee Fisherman's Coop to see the Glaucous Gull one more time before the day ended. The Gull was with a large group of Gulls behind the Coop on the bulkhead in the large fresh water puddles that were there as a result of the long rainy day. We watched the Gulls for a few minutes and then decided to head over to Hampton Beach to see if we could see the Snowy Owl.

     As we were approched the front gate of the Coop, Jen and I looked at each other when we realized the gate was closed! I turned around and noticed that the Coop store was closed and the vehicle that was parked in front was gone. I said to Jen at least we will be the first ones here in the morning to see the Gull! She didn't find that amusing! I remembered seeing a pick-up truck behind the building and hopefully there would be someone in the office, and luckily there was. I was obviously a bit embarrassed when I asked him if he could let us out, but relieved when he told me that we just needed to pull up to the gate; it had an eye and would open automatically!

     The smile returned to Jen's face as the gate opened, so we drove back to the parking lot at Hampton Beach State Park under the last light of the day. We didn’t see the Owl, but we did end the day with this beautiful sunset!

    Sunday morning, just after dawn- The weather forecast for Sunday was for a sunny and bright day with milder winds. Assuming we were going to have beautiful weather for the day, our expectations were dashed a bit when we walked out of the hotel! The sky was dark and very overcast, and it was sprinkling. Even though the weather was not as ideal as we had hoped for, we still had the New Hampshire coast to enjoy, even with the ominous looking sky. Within a few minutes the light rain stopped; at least I could use my camera!

     After a light breakfast, we drove over to Hampton Beach looking to start our day with “Appledore Gulls”.  There were a few Gulls on the beach, and a large group feeding in the surf a bit farther north. It only took two handfuls of enticement before we had nearly a hundred Gulls surrounding us. In the group was T20- the same Gull we found and photographed from the Saturday afternoon.

     Jen looked over and spotted another Gull with an Appledore green leg marker band. This bird was an adult, and the white numbers on its green marker were quite worn, but you could still read it; C45.

     Stopping along the road a mile north of the beach at Boar’s Head, we saw a small flock of Goldeneye feeding along the surf fifty yards out from shore.  I looked through all the Goldeneye but they were all Common. The Goldeneye were actively feeding. While some of the birds were diving, others were reappearing at the surface.  A single drake broke the surface right in front of us, it was the Barrows.

     After watching the Goldeneyes for a few minutes, we went north on Ocean Blvd. to the sea wall north of Boar’s Head. The tide was quite high and the waves were crashing up against the huge sea wall engulfing the beach leaving no real estate for the Gulls. However, the large concentration of Gulls were feeding just outside the beach breakers. I tossed a bit of kibble along the top of the wall, and the Gulls soon lined the top of the wall. In the group Jen and I spotted four banded Appledore Gulls. Unfortunately, we were only able to identify two of them; the other two flew off before we could record the numbers. The two Gulls that were feeding near me were #K68 and #K65.

     Both Gulls were adults, and Gull #K68 was familiar to me. I remembered photographing that Gull in just about the same spot on the wall on May 23 last year. I remembered the Gull because of the large abscess on its chin area which is now much reduced in size. (this image was taken on May 23, 2011).

     The next stop was at the North Hampton sea wall, and Gull #P02 which I also photographed on Saturday afternoon was still present.

    Band Reports-

    I received these band reports from Dr. Julie Ellis-

    Gull C45 was banded as an adult on 7/17/2005-Appledore Trail K, House to Smith's Cove
    Fed. band #- 1767-00245

    Gull K65 was banded as an adult on 5/21/2011- Appledore, Bartel's Trail
    Fed. band #- 1767- 20210

    Gull K68 was banded as an adult on 5/20/2011- Appledore, Bartel's Trail
    Fed. band #- 1767- 20204

    Gull P02 was banded as a chick on 7/15/2010- Appledore, Transect 15
    Fed. band #- 1537- 03991

    Gull T20 was banded as a chick on 7/15/2010- Appledore, Pk-Radio Tower
    Fed. band #- 1537- 03983

    Note: Compare the plumage patterns between T20 and P02- they were both banded on the same date. Gull T20 from Hampton Beach exhibits more advanced plumage showing more emerging grey scapulars.

     The Islands of the Isle of Shoals-

     White Island-

    Star Island-

    Appledore Island-

     All along the coast we would stop at every access spot and do a bit of sea watching. The majority of birds that we saw were Common Goldeneyes

    This hen is being receptive-

     An adult and juvenile Great Cormorant. These two were the only Cormorants we saw.

     We stopped at Rye Harbor and this flock of Snow Buntings flew by heading south along the beach.

     We drove into the parking lot at Odiorne State Park and we were getting ready to walk down the shore to the pile of old lobster traps where the Cape May Warbler had set up its winter home. It started to sprinkle again, so we decided not to take a chance with my camera equipment and left; maybe next time!

     We decided to search for the Hampton Snowy Owls one more time before we left New Hampshire. After striking out on both the north and south sides of the Hampton inlet, we stopped to say good-bye to the Glaucous Gull (if it was there). On the beach with a handful of Gulls was the Glaucous Gull.

     It was late morning and we decided to head home by way of Gloucester. Driving south on 1A towards Salisbury, Mass., I spotted a trio of Common Mergansers swimming in a tidal creek near the road. I took these pictures from my truck as we drove by.

   Gloucester- We made it to Jodrey’s Fish Pier about noon.  I parked the truck on the dock behind the Whole Foods Processing Plant. There were three Razorbills (two adults- one juvenile) in the inner harbor

     and one adult was just below us swimming along the pilings.

     On the edge of the roof of the Whole Foods building was this nearly all-white Glaucous Gull.

     It flew down and landed on the dock in front of the truck with the other Gulls.

     This was the small Gull that I photographed on Tuesday; the bird that liked to hang around with the dock workers from Whole Foods. 

     As this Gull walked around on the dock, I looked up to see a second Glaucous Gull; a barred/beige bird also looking over the edge of the roof top.

     It also flew down and made a pass over the inner harbor

    and landed on the water just out from the docks.

     A Razorbill and the large barred/beige Glaucous Gull pictured together in the same images.

     While I was watching and photographing the large beige Glaucous Gull, a single nearly all-white Iceland Gull appeared and landed on the water below me. I didn’t recognize this Gull from all the other Iceland Gulls I had seen in two days recently on the Pier.

     The small nearly all-white Glaucous Gull just walked around the dock looking for a handout or two. It eventually flew down to the water near the other Glaucous Gull.

     Jen spotted a third Glaucous Gull; another nearly all-white bird looking down from the roof of the State Processing building.

     The Razorbills ended up at the south end of the Pier,

       this adult came close to the pilings below us.

    The feathers of this hen Eider have already begun to bleach into their “paler” nesting plumage.

    This hen Red-breasted Merganser and pair of Eiders preen in sync on this submerged rock.

     We decide to make a quick pass around Eastern Point before heading home. Eastern Point was quiet, we only found a few “hauled-out” Harbor Seals at Brace Cove

     and a few small flocks of Ring-necked Ducks in Niles Pond.

      As we were leaving Gloucester, I took a quick look off the wall at Pavilion Beach, there were no White-winged Gulls, just a few flocks of Eiders and a handful of Gulls.

     Connecticut- Jen and I were back in Ct. by 4:30 pm. Since we were dropping by her parent’s house on the way home, I thought it would be fun to see if we could find the adult Iceland Gull at Circle Beach giving us White-winged Gulls in three states in one day. As the last light of the day faded we stopped at the Beach and it only took the first handful tossed onto the beach. The Iceland Gull was almost the first bird to show up on the beach.

     It was a great day coastal birding; adult Glaucous Gull in New Hampshire, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls in Mass., and an adult Iceland Gull in Ct. - White-winged Gulls in three states in one day!

To view Part 1 of “Late February Birding” click:

To view Part 2- Saturday Feb 18- Rhode Island – “Rhode Island birding group” : 

To view Part 3: "Gulls you say"?- "Gloucester it is"! :

To view Part 4: “Pink-footed Goose” and Part 5: “Banded Gulls”:
To view Part 6: "Back to Gloucester" :

 Keith and Jen Mueller

Killingworth, CT