New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Friday, October 4, 2013

Part 2 continues......Rhode Island "Finally"!! Seabirds off Southern New England" - Coxes Ledge

 However, the chumline still retained a little magic as more Shearwaters including this Cory's responded to it>

     I went down stairs to the fishing deck to replenish the suet and catfood. I had just walked back up the stairs to the upper deck and grabbed my camera. As I turned around, I spotted this Gull flying directly to the stern and the floating chum. I looked twice and realized it was a Lesser Black-backed Gull....the other bird I wanted to see today! >

     Good view showing the tail band. >

    The juvenile Lesser Black-backed circled the stern twice and then.....

      .....dropped in with the other Gulls. >

     It started feeding on the suet and catfood. >

     Again it lifted up and flew close to the stern probably eyeing the larger chunks of suet that had not yet drifted away from the stern of the vessel. Unfortunately, the stern of the vessel was facing due south causing most of my images to be back lit. >

     The Gull seems to be patient waiting for the chunks to drift away from the vessel. So it drops in and waits. >

    The Greater Black-backed moves in on a large piece of suet. The Lesser Black-backed sees this and seems to get anxious......

      .....drops in right in front of the larger Gull.....

      .....and grabs a piece of suet! >

       The longer profile with longer wing extension is clearly obvious in this image >

      More suet >

     A very handsome bird >

     I was temporarily distracted as another Greater Shearwater followed the slick towards the stern..... the Shearwater passed by, I spotted another small long profiled Gull swimming out in the end of the small Gull flock. It was a second immature Lesser Black-backed Gull! >

      This bird eventually got up and flew up the slick and passed by the stern It circled once but kept flying heading west. I did manage a few shots as it passed. This Gull was very similar to the first Gull, but had slightly different band markings. Maybe a nest mate?? >


     Species ID Tip- If you have trouble identifying a flying  immature Lesser Black-backed Gull from an immature Herring Gull, here are two field marks that may help you. First, besides the obvious long and slender swimming profile with longer wing extensions, bill and head shapes, under wing feathering, etc. Look at two areas....the tail and the wings. The Lesser Black-backed shows a dark tail band with very white tail rectrices bases as shown in the below images. Although a Herring Gull may have some white tail base showing, the tail is basically brown with small amounts of white mottling and barring (compare to the below images of the banded Herring Gull). >

      The upper (or dorsal) tail band and white base with wide brown barring  is clearly visible on this image   of the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Also look at the row of greater primary and secondary coverts (long row of smaller feathers that are above and cover the secondaries and primaries). The same dark brown color of the secondaries and primaries are on this row of feathers on the Lesser Black-backed Gull....... compared to the color of the Herring Gull's greater coverts which are lighter in color than the primaries and secondaries as on this immature Herring Gull. >


    When all the floating chum was consumed, most of the Gulls (including the two Lesser Black-backed Gulls) either flew off or just drifted away, But a few of the Gulls took one more look to see if they had missed anything. One of these Gulls was banded! I recognized it immediately as an Appledore Island Gull. I have been lucky in the last few years finding banded Gulls from Appledore and Dr. Ellis' program. I was glad to find this one way out here on Coxes Ledge. ( Later I sent her the images of this Gull for her records) >

     The Gannet......

     .....and Shearwaters flew all day, continually! >

      Even the numbers of Cory's Shearwaters increased on Coxes during the day......

      .....even this pair of them that swam towards the vessel. >

     As they got closer to the took off.....

     .....followed by the other one. >

       That was wonderful! >

       Ho-hum...another Greater Shearwater.......

     .......followed by another Greater and another Cory's......

     .....and another Greater that came so close, again my camera had trouble focusing.....

      .....but it did, and these "extremely close" images at the minimum of my focal range of my camera show the amazing feather detail of this handsome Greater Shearwater. >

     More and more Greater and Cory's Shearwaters appeared in a non-stop procession. Again, another Yellow-rumped Warbler landed on the vessel. This one however was very tired. It flew down to the lower deck of the bow, and the fisherman were really kind-hearted and cleared a small area and made a  "nest" for the bird in a coil of rope......

      .....which the Warbler graciously accepted! >

      Another Greater Shearwater was passing by the port side just as a fisherman tossed in his old clam bait. The Shearwater almost broke its neck twisting and turning to crash land on the sea to grab that clam.....

      .....which it swallowed in one big gulp, and then flew off as soon as it went "down the hatch"! >

       I can't help myself....just one more (well, maybe one or two more) image of this beautiful Cory's Shearwater. >

     It was late in the afternoon, the wind had come up to twenty-plus knots and I had a feeling Capt. Richie would be calling it soon. >

     Capt. Richie announced over the pa system that we would give it about ten more minutes. Just in time to see the fourth Fulmar of the day coming towards the vessel from the west.....
 circled once and then flew back the way it came......

     .....only to turn around one more time and circle the Lady again......

     .....only to turn around one more time and head back (again) the way it originally came from. >

     Lesson number 2! -  For the birding photographer who goes out frequently on a cod boat (me) and also chums (me)..... find a way to keep your camera with you and protected when you walk down onto the fishing deck!!!!!! Captain Richie announced to everyone to "reel them up" its time to head home. With a two and a half hour ride ahead of us, we needed to get going. Since the fishing was a bit slow, Capt. Richie generously gave everyone on board a few extra minutes, because funny enough, the fish finally started biting during the last half hour.

     With the diesels fired up, the Lady lunged as it grabbed some sea heading northwest. I again, placed my camera in my camera bag, and walked down the stairs to the fishing deck on the stern. Everyone started piling  up their fish (the ones that did catch some) on the stern waiting in line to have the mates fillet them. With the amount of fish slime splattering around, I am glad my camera was safe and dry up stairs! I also at this time, make sure my fishing rod is secured in the rod holder, and I seal up my catfood and suet buckets making sure that no water gets in them when they start cleaning the fish and washing down the deck.

     Of course I had to scan the horizon from the stern rail through my binoculars. In the far distance (half a mile), I spotted a small group of plunge-diving Gannets. I kinda whispered to myself, good for you found the Herring! As I watched the plunge diving activity, I noticed a smaller white bird than the Gannets just appear. It flew just like a Tern making a few dives to the sea. I watched the bird for a few seconds and realized it was a Tern... but it had a darker sooty-gray back and wings, and a long sooty-gray tail. I realized I was looking at a probable Bridled Tern! The bird only stayed for a minute and then slowly flew off to the south leaving the Gannets behind. I ran quickly up the stairs, grabbed my camera, but couldn't locate the rapidly disappearing Tern!

    (Later) when I got back home, I looked at all my books (just to confirm in my mind).....and there was no question or doubt, I saw a Bridled Tern. But since I wasn't able to relocate the Tern and take a few record shots, I will just have to call it a very probable Bridled Tern on Coxes Ledge! (Note to self).....bring your camera with you always when you go downstairs to the fishing deck!!!

    Usually I go back onto the pulpit on the way home alternating to the stern to search through the Gulls which gather waiting for the fish scraps and frames being tossed over the stern by the mates cleaning activity. But honestly, I had such a fantastic day seabirding with all-day and  non-stop birds, maybe I will sit this ride out on the upper deck bench. Dad joined me on the bench, and we talked and watched birds off the starboard side of the Lady.

     There were many Gannets sitting on the sea as we passed by......

     .....and they would take off as the vessel got closer giving us a wonderful take-off show. Actually Gannets are quite agile for being such a large bird. >

      Oh yeah, there were more Shearwaters (mostly Cory's) also like this Cory's. >

     This stunning adult Gannet let us get very close to it......

      ....before it took off. >

      Interesting shot of this Gannet "pumping its bilges"! >

     Another pair.....

    .....that were well choreographed taking off together. >

     The Cory's Shearwaters numbers increased the farther we pulled away from Coxes. >

      Two Cory's.....

      Three Cory's......

     Four more Cory's......

     Well, you know! >

     This Gannet joined the Gulls following the stern looking for fish parts, and a free meal >

     Finally after a wonderful and quite relaxing two and a half hour ride....Point Judith. >

       I never saw one Laughing Gull on the cod grounds! But they were plentiful in the Harbor..... well as the numbers of Cormorants. >

      Plenty of Laughing Gulls around the docks. I really like Laughing Gulls....hate to see them go in the winter. >

     The day turned out to be one of the best late summer/early fall seabirding days I have ever had. The birds flew constantly, never being more than a few minutes apart.  Sometimes there were so many flying at once, I couldn't keep up with them all. I ended up seeing the birds I wanted to see: Fulmars and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, the (unexpected great numbers) of Cory's Shearwaters, a Phalarope and a distant rarity!  I will really miss the Cory's Shearwaters as they leave our area very soon. I am glad I had a great day with them!

      Here are the approximated numbers and highlight results from today: 1 Kumlien's Gull,
2- 1st cycle LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, 4 seasonably early NORTHERN FULMAR,
80 - 90 Cory's Shearwaters, 140 - 150 Greater Shearwaters, 1 RED-NECKED PHALAROPE,
120 Gannets, 1 very probable BRIDLED TERN, 13 Common Eider, 3 Surf Scoter, 3 WOOD DUCKS,
2 White-winged Scoter, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 1 Brown Thrasher, 2 Northern Flicker, 3 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 6-10 unidentified Passerines and 1 banded and leg marker Appledore Island Herring Gull, I also saw another Appledore banded Gull briefly, but wasn't able to read the band number.

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT      Book review below >>>

     I received my copy of this newly published book two weeks ago when it made its publishing debut. I was (and am) very excited about this book because the title alone is my greatest birding passion! I am not going to make a long drawn-out analytical review of this book because it just isn't necessary! The book stands alone and speaks for will write its own review.

     If you are new to seawatching, or want to start, than simply, this is the book for you. Forget the fact there isn't another book like it on the market, it is as comprehensive a volume as one would need or desire for this birding subject. Each bird species is discussed on a species by species format. All the information you will need regarding species size, structure, flight and flocking behavior, appearance, similar species, and much more. Maps and arrival times are outlined giving you a reasonable idea when to expect the birds in your area. The pages of this book will build your confidence and identification skills when you are looking at them through your scope from some shoreline beach or rocky outcropping.

     Each species is illustrated with many flight shots and swimming shots, and also very important similar species comparisons and species association shots. >

      If you are an accomplished "seawatcher", you may not find the book that informative.....but you will enjoy the beautiful images of the species. That alone is worth the price of the book. >

       The back of the book discusses popular seawatching locations up and down the east coast from Newfoundland to Florida. Is this book worth it?? YES it is!! This book will guide you through the very complex world of seawatching making your experience more fun and fulfilling when become proficient in identifying the many birds that enjoy the hard life on the sea. This book will help you recognize many of the seabird species that often go un-identified because of lack of species skills usually seen at a great distance in your scope over the sea. I give this book four and a half out of  five tail feathers! Get your copy today!