New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mid March Birding Highlights- March 6 through March 17

     I just about always have my camera(s) with me especially when I am traveling about on business. Since the New Hampshire weekend (last report) I have been trying to get caught up on business, which has me driving around this month. Luckily, my business ventures are nearby some of my favorite local birding spots, so a little detour to these spots was a nice bonus.

     Here are some of the highlights from my travels:

     March 6- Jacob's Beach, Guilford, CT - I spotted this banded Ring-billed Gull in a small flock of Gulls on the beach. I wondered if it was the same wing-tagged (A643) Gull Jen and I spotted on Circle Beach on Feb 12, and was later hanging around Guilford Harbor. Most likely it had lost the one remaining wing tag 0n its left wing. As the Gull walked closer. I read the leg marker numbers- 262, it was the same Gull (see: 

    Westwoods Trail Marsh, Guilford, CT- 

     The first of the returning Spring Green-winged Teal-  

    March 7- East Shore Park, New Haven-

    This was the first time that I was there that I only saw one Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and it was very actively hunting.

     Golden-crownded Kinglet

    New Haven Harbor boat ramp, West Haven-

    There were the usual large number of Gulls present. The only unusual Gull that I could come up with was the same banded Herring Gull (M04) that I had photographed a few weeks earlier.

    West Wharf, Madison, CT-

    My next stop was in Madison, so I stopped at West Wharf for a few minutes. On the western side of the beach (in front of the new Madison Hotel) I spotted an adult Iceland Gull. When I got closer to the bird, it looked familiar. Apparantly the Circle Beach Gull had flown down the beach a mile or two east.


   March 8- North Farms Res., Wallingford, CT-

    The usual flocks of Geese were present at North Farms, although the White-fronted may have been long gone. It seemed that just about every goose on the shore was banded-

     Greenbacher's Pond, Durham, CT-

     Flocks of Starlings over the picturesque fields and barn- 


   Durham Town Skating Ring, Durham, CT-

    As I was driving by, I spotted this brace of drake Shovelers. They were a bit spooky; they took off as I drove into the small parking area.

   March 10, Point Judith, RI-

   Jen and I had a few hours in the afternoon, so we decided to take a quick run to Point Judith to see if we could see the Glaucous Gull that Paul L'Etoile had found the weekend before hanging around the docks in Galilee. We didn't find the Glaucous Gull, but there were plenty of hungry Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls!

    Point Judith-

    The rafts of Scoters continue, although the numbers of Black Scoters had increased. A few weeks earlier, Surf Scoters represented a higher precentage.

     March 12- Stratford, CT-

     I only had a few minutes, so I made a quick run down to Long Beach. I was late for the Gull Show; the last few Gulls were leaving heading west. There were two Gannets and a few Bonaparte's Gulls flying around, but also heading west.

   a large flock of Sanderlings and Dunlins-

   Stratford boat ramp-

   The wintering Coot were still there, and their numbers were increasing.

    Banded Black Duck.

   March 14- Scarborough Beach, Rhode Island-

   Black-headed Gulls-

   On Sunday, Bill Thompson emailed me to let me know that he photographed the Black-headed Gulls
at Scarborough Beach on Saturday around 1:00 pm in the afternoon. Ironically, Jen and I stopped by Scarborough Beach that same afternoon (with hopes that the B-h Gulls were still there), but it wasn't until late in the afternoon. Needless to say, when we got there, Scarborough Beach was empty of Gulls. When I got Bill's email on Sunday, I couldn't believe it!

     I had to be in Mystic on Wednesday for a late morning meeting, so I decided to take the early morning hours to go for the Black-headed Gulls. I arrived just after dawn to an interesting setting. The parking lot at the south end of Scarbourough beach was clear, but a curtain of fog was srawn right along the shore on the beach. On the beach was a good-sized group of Gulls (mostly Ring-billed). I started searching through the Gulls against a back-drop of the line of fog that was cutting the edge of the beach. In the flock of Gulls I found the juvenile Black-headed Gull. The Gull was positioned in the usual location where you would find them when in a flock of other Gulls; on the outer edge-in this case closest to me!

   I knew that Bill had photographed an adult with a full hood, so before I walked down for a closer look, I wanted to see if the adult was also in the flock. Sure enough, on the outer edge on the back was the adult.

    A closer look at the juvenile-

    Can you find the adult?

  The juvenle shifted positions (again)-

   A little better look at the adult-

    Typically a skittish species, it flew off with the approach of the many beach walkers that morning. However, the other Gulls stayed put!

   The first winter bird joined the adult, and flew off into the fog. I knew where the two birds were going, so I walked over to the low tide exposed reef that is southeast of the WTP. When I approached the beginning of the reef, sure enough, they were there appearing as ghostly figures materializing out of the fog.

   The adult stretched its wings a bit and then flew over to the outermost boulder and perched against the foggy backdrop.

   It called a few times, but its buzzing calls were muffled by the waves.

   The first winter bird responded to the calls and immediatley perked up and walked towards the adult.


   The adult Gull flew off and the juvenile followed it.

   The first winter bird changed its direction and flew directly back towards me.

    Both birds turned a bit west and flew into the fog. I knew where they were going; to the tanks in the WTP.
As I was heading back to the beach, this odd "tail-less" Ring-billed Gull flew over.

    When I got back to the beach, there wre no Gulls present, they had all flown over to the parking lot across the street; the Black-headed Gulls weren't with them.

I drove over to Galilee Harbor on my way out heading home. I thought there might be a good chance that the Glaucous Gull or maybe an Iceland Gull might still be in the area. When I arrived at the docks, many of the boats were off-loading their catch (mostly skate), and I was a bit surprised to find very few Gulls hanging out!

    I was a bit early for my appointment in Mystic, so I stopped by Barn Island to see if I could find the reported Black-headed Gull. I didn't have much time to walk into the impoundments, so I figured I would try my luck from the boat ramp. There was only one Gull near the ramp, which turned into several hundred after a minute of coaxing. I was hoping the Black-headed Gull would be a bit curious and see what all the commotion was about. But with all the Herring Gulls showing up with very few Ring-billed Gulls, I figured it would be a no-show. But the Gull show was fantastic!

    The chance at seeing a different Gull species wasn't totally missed. As I was leaving I spotted a very acrobatic Gull flying high heading northeast, it was a Laughing Gull, the first I have seen this spring.

    March 16- Durham Town Skating Ring, Durham, CT-

    Shovelers, Shovelers and more Shovelers!

    A little courtship thumping!

    March 19- Shell Beach, Guilford, CT-
    Jen and I took a quick detour to Shell Beach area. Jen spotted our first Oystercatcher of the Spring.

   We spotted a Great Egret in Leete's Marsh. I stopped on the causeway to take a few long shots out of our car window....

    Lucky I was taking pictures of the Egret, this Harrier just appeared in my lens!

    Song Sparrow

   Westwoods Trail Marsh-

    Green-winged Teal.

   Now I am all caught up and ready for Saturday's Rhode Island Pelagic....hopefully it will cool off a bit stopping another day of fog!!

Keith and Jen Mueller