New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Friday, December 14, 2012

Part 4 "Lighthouse Attractions, a Salt Pond Greeting, and Return to Circle Beach"

     Part 4- (Day Three- Afternoon) Beavertail State Park, Jamestown Rhode Island- We made it to Beavertail in the afternoon. As usual we drive around the point by the lighthouse and see what ducks are swimming off the point. Jen spotted a raft of Eiders and she also saw quite a few Harlequins. From the drivers seat I could see that many of the Harlequins were close to the rocks. But my main focus was on trying to find the Iceland Gull that Bill Thompson found and photographed there a little over a week earlier
( ) Nice shots Bill! He also photographed (the eventual Galilee) stunning Glaucous Gull there last winter ).

     I wanted to drive around the Park again so I could walk down to photograph the Harlequins, and of course look for the Iceland Gull. When we made it as far as the one-way cut through just north of the Lighthouse, Jen spotted a bird flying right down the one way lane flying right towards us. She pointed to the bird just as it was in front of the car. The bird circled around and flew right down the one way lane in the other direction. I shouted out Cave Swallow! I grabbed my camera quickly, just in time to take one shot of the birds tail as it flew away from us-

     I parked the car on the side of the road by the lane, and we both got out hoping we could find the bird again. That didn't take much more than a few seconds! The Swallow came back flying right down the lane.....

     .....turned around and flew back the other direction right down the lane!-

     I learned that trying to photograph a Swallow at close range is like trying to photograph a Mosquito!-

     The Swallow varied from its flight path once and a while, often cruising over the lawn by the Lighthouse.....

     .....only to go back to the same path up and down the one way lane-

     After taking hundreds of quick action photos, I did manage a few that you can actually see what I was taking pictures of!-

     While Jen and I were watching (and trying to photograph) the Swallow, a small flock of ten Harlequin Ducks flew down along the shore. They flew right by the Point and then straight out towards Point Judith where I lost sight of them-

     After spending  half an hour with the Cave Swallow, I decided to walk down to the Point to photograph the Harlequins. Just as I passed the Lighthouse, I felt a woosh over my head. I looked up and there was the Cave Swallow. I watched it fly over the lawn, than another swoosh in front of me......

     ......the Cave Swallow, how did it get back here so fast? I looked back and found that other Cave Swallow was flying across the lawn, this was a second Cave Swallow-

     I walked down granite ledges to photograph the Harlequins. There were thirty-three swimming in the surf off the Point-

     While I was watching and photographing the Harlequins, a flock of eight came from behind me flying along the shore-

     This flock rounded the Point and kept flying across the West Passage eventually landing by old Whale Rock Lighthouse base near the Narragansett shore. With this group, the other flock of ten and the thirty-three swimming off the Point, that made fifty-one Harlequins, a good number for Beavertail-

     A small flock of Eiders and Harlequins-

     When I walked back up to the rocks to the Lighthouse, the two Cave Swallows were busy buzzing the area-

     Wait a minute....this bird has only half a complete tail, this is a third Cave Swallow! Two others had joined up with the original one that we saw by the one way lane-


     I isolated these images in this block because I think this theme would make a great painting....Cave Swallows flying by the Beavertail Lighthouse. I love the shadows created by the birds on the walls of the building.-


     I also like these images showing the Cave Swallows flying over the granite ledges along the surf-

     When I got back to the car I was excited to tell Jen that I saw two more Cave Swallows flying around the Lighthouse with the one first one she saw. Well, she said, that would be four then, the first one never left the one way lane, I have been watching all the time you were at the Point! We left the Park talking about the beautiful encounter with the Cave Swallows, and I never looked for the Iceland Gull!-

     Ninigret Park, Charlestown- We were driving down Route 1 along South County and we noticed the sign for Ninigret Park. Jen asked if we had enough time to walk out to Grassy Point to see if the Lesser Black-backed Gull was there. Jen really likes this Gull, not necessarily the species, but this Grassy Point Gull. She really enjoys seeing it, its a very friendly Gull. With just about an hour of daylight left, I figured it was worth a try (I really like this Gull too).

     We started walking down the path about halfway to where you could see the cove. We only saw one Gull in the area (I really mean one Gull). It was Herring Gull and it was near Grassy Point. Before we made it to the Point, I checked the back side cove to see if it was there, and it wasn't. When we walked out onto the Point, the pond was flat and that single Herring Gull was gone. We did come prepared with a small bag of catfood, but there were absolutely no gulls in sight anywhere!

    After about fifteen minutes, I was beginning to think that we wouldn't see the Gull until a single Greater Black-backed Gull came flying across the pond from the inlet. Sure enough it saw Jen tossing a handful of catfood into the water and responded immediately to the free end of the day meal. The big Gull landed right in the floating kibble announcing his good fortune for all to hear-

     And that is exactly what we wanted. One Gull brings two, and so on.....and a second Greater Black-back Gull came flying in like it was shot out of a rocket!-

     Then it started, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were flying in from everywhere. Soon we had coaxed in two dozen Gulls. I have no idea where they all came from!. Suddenly there it was. Jen's favorite Gull; it landed right in front of us! Jen was really happy! Hello old friend!-

     This is a good side-by-side comparison shot of the Lesser (left) and Greater Black-backed Gulls (right)-

     The sun was going down fast, and was casting shadows from the trees and brush on the water. Sometimes the Gull was in the shade.....

     .....and other times in the sun causing its plumage to glow from the warm sunset sun-

     The Gull flew around the Point a few times, sometimes in the shadows.....

     ......and then into the sun. Spectacular Gull!-

     As an artist, I am captivated by the warm yellow/orange glow of the plumage (above) and the complimentary blue/violet colors of the shadows on the plumage (below). I know someday in the future I will be painting this Gull on a canvas (maybe a Christmas present for Jen) and when I do, I will paint it in these colors. Beautiful bird in beautiful lighting-

      The day and our Anniversary vacation ended beautifully; Jen saw her Gull and the sunset was spectacular!!

     Addendum.......I wanted to end the report above, but circumstances dictated that I add a little more (appropriately) to it. On Sunday the 9 th, Jen and I were doing a little Christmas shopping and as it just so happens we were only five minutes from the West Haven boat ramp. She likes going here in the winter looking for Iceland Gulls and a possible banded/wing tagged Gull. I mentioned to her about the banded Gull I saw on Monday but I couldn't see if it had an Appledore band on its left leg. Maybe it would be hanging around the Pier? We had only stopped for a minute at the ramp, and I was in the back getting our binoculars when Jen said "There it is"! I looked over and she was pointing to the Gull standing on the small beach by the ramp. It was an Appledore Gull, and it had the green numbered leg marker displayed. The number "M04" was clearly visible. What made it more interesting was I saw this same Gull last December on the same beach in almost the same spot.

         December 14, Circle Beach, Madison, CT-

     "Looks who's Back!" Adult Iceland Gull  again!      Photo study

     This adult Iceland spent the last winter at Circle Beach (with two first winter Iceland Gulls- one remaining until early March). I last saw this bird on April 4 of this year, and today was the first day I spotted it this winter. I was at the beach about a week ago looking (and hoping)  but I didn't see it. Today it appeared.

     In some strange way, I almost feel the Gull recognized my truck from my near daily visits last spring. When I drove up and stopped by Circle Beach, there were only five Gulls on the beach. Suddenly this one Gull came from down the road and circled my truck. I was thinking to myself how funny it would be if that was the adult Iceland Gull. Guess what? it was! I couldn't believe it! It circled my truck twice and then flew back down the road and landed on a roof top. I reached for my camera and managed a few going away shots just before it landed on the roof. I looked at the images in my LED screen just to make sure, and there it was!-

     Well, I am always prepared for Gulls. In my truck are many loaves of bread and at least fifty pounds of catfood kibble. I grabbed my bright orange Home Depot bucket full of kibble and walked out onto the private Beach (which I have permission to do). I was just opening the top on the bucket when I looked up and here it was. The adult Iceland Gull was coming in over the cottages and circling the beach just as it did last Spring. Welcome back!-

     In the same routine, it would come in over the cottages, circle around by the eastern side of the small beach......

     .....and then land in the same corner all by itself-

     A very handsome Gull!-

      Looks like I will be doing another painting, Any of these images would make a fine painting-


     Keith and Jen Mueller
     Killingworth, CT