New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Monday, April 9, 2012

April Bonaparte's Gull Blitz, Osprey and a very determined Bald Eagle

Highlights from the week of April 1 through April 8-

    For the Prelude to this Gulling Report- March/April Long Island Sound Plankton Feeding Gulls, click here:

    Sunday afternoon April 1, Jen and I were returning from North Jersey on business. We decided to stop on the way home  in Southport to look for the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Bonaparte's Gulls that had been gathering at Southport Beach all week including a Black-headed Gull discovered by Frank Mantlik. The L B-b Gull was not at Buryinghill Beach when we arrived, but we did see it on the point to the east heading towards Southport Beach; it was feeding along the shoreline near the rocky point.

     As we approached the Beach, we could see a few hundred Bonaparte's Gulls standing on the outer sandbar from low tide.

     When we pulled up in the parking spot, someone mentioned that a Little Gull was spotted a few hours earlier. I didn't have my Blackberry with me so I didn't know; looks like we were a few hours late (again)!

     I checked my emails when we got home and found Nick's report and Mark Szantyr's link showcasing the stunning images he took of this spectacular Gull!

     Hoping for a possible second chance to find the (a) Little Gull on Monday, at 7:30 am I was at Southport Beach. Unfortunately, the tide was very high, and there were very few Gulls there. However, the Lesser Black-backed Gull was present at Buryinghill Beach.

     Five flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls flew outside the wooden jetty at Buryinghill and circled the beach at Sherwood Island SP. Two flocks landed just off the beach, the other three groups continued towards the Norwalk Islands.

     I spent an hour with the Gull and decided to drive back to Southport Beach. This Great Egret was fishing in the marsh.

     There was a small cluster of Herring and Ring-billed Gulls standing on the jetty at Southport Beach. Two small flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls tried to land on the jetty, circled once and then flew off to the east.

     I decided to drive over to Stratford while the tide dropped, I would return to Southport at low tide. My first stop in Stratford was the beach at the end of Fifth Avenue; maybe the Icleand Gull was still around. When I pulled up to the beach, I didn't see the Iceland Gull, but a large flock of Bonaparte's Gulls surface feeding just off the beach. The flock of Gulls stretched from the point at Long Beach to beyond the distant sea wall at Marnick's Restaurant. I was joined by two other birders and the three of us began scoping through nearly 3,000 Bonaparte's Gulls hoping for a Little Gull; which we didn't find.

     Most of the birds started heading east towards Stratford Point, We drove over to the sea wall by Marnick's Restaurant. At the sea wall there was a handful of other birders including Frank Mantlik who were scoping the huge flocks of Gulls.

     From Russian Beach looking towards Stratford Point- large flock of Bonaparte's Gulls. There were 4500+ Bonaparte's Gulls and several thousand (mostly) Ring-billed Gulls off the beach.

    I drove back to Southport Beach where I ran into John Marshall and Mike Warner, although there were two hundred Bonaparte's Gulls there, no sign of the Little Gull. The male Eurasian Wigeon was present. Also a single hen wigeon with lighter plumage and a reddish head was present- possibly a hen Eurasian Wigeon.

     On my way home I drove around the Stratford loop, but only saw the same Gulls I had earlier in the morning. I ran into John again at Oyster River and other than three Oystercatchers, the beach was empty.

     A quick stop at Bradley Point yielded an adult Iceland Gull mixing with the Herring and few remaining Ring-billed Gulls.


     Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3 and 4- the adult and first winter Iceland Gull continued at Circle Beach, Weaver Beach and Grass Island sandbar, Guilford Harbor. They have not been seen since Wednesday.

    Thursday, April 5-  I spent the day with a friend and collector from Long Island. Before I picked him up at the ferry slip in Bridgeport at 8:45 am I drove to Fifth Avenue Beach in Stratford. There were very few Bonaparte's Gulls near shore, but in the middle of the Sound, a huge mass of swarming Gulls were feeding on the plankton mat. Before I met Al at the ferry, I looked around Seaside Park, I only found five Bonaparte's Gulls.

    Al and I drove to Southport for (maybe a longshot chance) the the Little Gull and the dependable Lesser Black-backed Gull. At Buryinghill Beach, the L B-b Gull was not present (we found it at the point to the east), but the single Snow Goose flew in from Long Island and landed outside the jetty in the Sound.

         In the Cove between Buryinghill Beach and Southport Beach were two rafts of Scaup-

        At Southport Beach, there was a small flock of two hundred Bonaparte's Gulls floating off the beach.

     In Stratford- a large concentration of a few thousand mostly Ring-billed Gulls lined the shoreline from Russian Beach to Stratford Point, we saw only a few hundred Bonaparte's Gulls flying off shore.-

     In the treated water discharge at the Stratford boat ramp, this single Wood Duck seemed out of place in the salt water.

     On Saturday afternoon, April, 7 Jen and I took a ride to see her parents. Since Circle Beach is close by, we decided to take another look for the Iceland Gull(s). I was able to coax in about eighty Gulls to the beach, but we didn't see either of the Iceland Gulls. I was watching a Red Tail Hawk soaring over my head,

     when I spotted a Bald Eagle chasing an Osprey over the East River marsh.....

     the Eagle kept chasing the Osprey trying to get the Osprey to give up its fish prey that it was holding tight to its abdomen.

     Two additional Osprey joined in with the chase, but they were chasing the Eagle instead.

     The Eagle chased the osprey south which brought both birds right over our truck.


     The Eagle was so close overhead, that we could see that the Eagle was banded.

     The Eagle chased the Osprey over the Sound, and eventually dropped its fish over Half Acre Reef.

     It tried to grab the fish, but it fell to the water. The Eagle tried to retrieve the fish but it failed. It flew back to the marsh and landed in its favorire perch tree on Grass Island.

     Jen and I drove down to the boat ramp to watch the Eagle. It made two more passes over the marsh, but was driven back to the tree by a handful of Osprey; I believe they had had enough of this Eagle!

     Near the beginning of the boat ramp road,  the pair of Osprey have returned to their nesting platform behind Mr. Farnsworth's house (who was very kind in allowing us to walk over his beach for the Iceland Gull).  Jen and I looked over and spotted a female Osprey standing on an old dock pole. The male was approaching from the south, and I told Jen that they were going to copulate. The perch may have been a bit unstable, as the male decided to drop to the ground in front of the female......

     .....almost on cue, the female flew up to the nest, and the male followed......

      ..... and copulation took place.

     Looking close- you could see the bands on the male.

     Just off from the beach, two Gannets fished along shore.

     Keith and Jen Mueller
     Killingworth, CT