New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Part 2- Ct Coast- "Double Ice"

     Day 3- Wednesday, December 26, Circle Beach, Madison, CT- Christmas came and went, and Jen and I and our families had a wonderful Holiday. I decided to spend the morning Gulling, so I was at Meigs Point at Hammonasset just as the Park opened. Other than the usual Gulls, not much was going on. I ran into Jim Carr and asked him if he wanted to follow me down to Circle Beach to try for the Iceland Gull, which he did.

     When I drove up to the small beach, I hadn't even got out of my truck yet when the Gulls started flying in to the beach-

      A few moments later, the Iceland Gull showed up making its usual two circles over the beach-

      .....and then landing on the roof of the nearby cottage. It sat for a few minutes, then it joined the others along the beach (its typical behavior).-

     We watched for half an hour, and the Iceland Gull began walking and feeding along the shoreline of the beach......

     ......grabbing Slipper Shells and Periwinkles.-

     The Gull maneuvered the large Periwinkle around so it could grab the animal inside the shell with the tip of its bill-

     Once it had a firm grip on the animal........ twisted and shook the shell until the animal was removed from the shell-

      And once removed from the shell, it swallowed its meal-

       Jim taking a few shots of the Gull-

         From the boat ramp on the East River (near Circle Beach) the few trees on Grass Island are usually a perch for a pair of Bald Eagles that have wintered here (and sometimes seen in the summer harassing the Osprey for their fish) over the last few years. There was a bird in the tree, but much smaller and darker than an Eagle; it was a smaller dark Buteo. The trees are a few hundred yards away, and through my binoculars, I thought the bird was a Rough-legged Hawk. It wasn't until it took off that it was easy to identify as a darker Red-tailed Hawk.-

     West Haven Boat Ramp- On the way to New Haven Harbor, I checked a few places in Guilford and Stony Creek for Gulls: Guilford Harbor, Trolley Road, Lost Lake outpouring, Shell Beach and Stony Creek Harbor, not much there!

     When I drove into the West Haven boat ramp, the usual three to four hundred Gulls were there, but I couldn't find one Iceland Gull-

     Bradley Point, West Haven- On the way down Ocean Ave. towards Woodmont, I noticed a large flock of Canada Geese feeding in the lawns by Jimmy's Restaurant. Among the Canadas were two dozen Brant. I have only seen them on these lawns only a few times.-

     A few juveniles chase each other around-

     5th Avenue Beach, Stratford, CT-
 There weren't too many Gulls at Oyster River Beach, and the usual concentration of Ring-billed Gulls at the Stratford boat ramp. Other than a few Mallards and Black Ducks, not much else. I stopped by the small beach at the end of Fifth Avenue (near Long Beach Park) to see if the Iceland Gull (originally found a few years ago by Frank Mantlik) had returned to its favorite beach and piling.

     The beach had taken on a different look thanks to the devastation from Hurricane Sandy in November. In fact with the few destroyed cottages, it didn't look like the same beach. Since I hadn't seen any reports of the Gull so far, maybe it moved on to another area not recognizing the beach.

     There were only a few Gulls on the beach, and the Iceland Gull wasn't one of them. I started with my usual enticement, and suddenly there were Gulls everywhere! I looked up, and sure enough, there it was, Frank's Gull was back! It came flying from behind me over the houses-

    The two Iceland Gulls (Circle Beach and here) are very predictable, and follow the same pattern each and every time I see them. This Gull likes to circle the beach twice, and then it lands on its favorite piling a short distance down the beach to the west at the end of the small rock jetty. And that is just what it did!

     However, this time the Gull was very vocal. This was the first time that I have seen this Gull being so noisy.-

     The Gull settled down for a moment, and then it started displaying and calling continuously!-

    This Iceland Gull is much larger than the Gull at Circle Beach. Although quite similar in primary markings, It has a stockier build and a larger and "blockier" head, which makes me think it is a male, especially with the constant territorial calling and displays. Maybe this Gull also just arrived in the area, and it is also establishing its territory!-

    The Gull directed its display towards a passing Herring Gull-

     It would settle for a moment, and then begin its calling and displays all over again.-

      In fact, it did this the entire forty-five minutes I was there!-

     Finally it flew off its perch to the water and began corralling and chasing the other Gulls away from its piling.-

     And many of the Herring Gulls submitted and moved on,-

     The Iceland Gull must have decided that it had accomplished what it wanted since many of the Gulls moved on. It flew back up on its piling.......

     .....for another minute, before it flew off again.....

     .....and flew a circle around me on the beach......

      .....before it landed back on the water to chase a few more Herring Gulls away from its piling! It remained there when I left. I was happy to find this Gull, and also for seeing two adult Iceland Gulls in CT. in the same day. This image shows a good size comparison between the Herring Gulls and the Iceland Gull.-

    Day 4, Thursday, December 27, Hammonasset Beach SP, Madison, CT- "Winter Shorebirds"-

     With another winter storm hitting us, although this time with heavy rain and strong northeasterly winds. The conditions were perfect for a bit of "Soundwatching" for displaced seabirds. When I drove to Meigs just after it opened, you could see that the tide was really high, covering all the marsh and part of the main road. However the wind had shifted to the Northwest, not ideal!

     It was still raining, so I sat in my truck which I positioned so I could open my side window and get a good rain-free view into the Sound. Well the flurry of displaced seabirds never came, except for a few distant Razorbills, Red-throated Loons and a single Red-necked Grebe, nothing was flying.....I mean the Sound was empty of rushing wings.

     But there was a good concentration of three hundred plus Shorebirds on the foot of the breakwater. The mixed flock contained Dunlin, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and nearly two dozen Purple Sandpipers. The rain let up, which gave me an opportunity to spend some time with the Shorebirds. The heavy wind made the Shorebirds uneasy, and they scuffled around the rocks, and would often take off in a blurr only to return to the exact spot where they left.-

     A good showing of Purple Sandpipers......

     .....and Ruddy Turnstones-

     Dunlins "tucked in"-

     Here we go again!-

     A few portraits of Purple Sandpipers in really bad lighting for photography, not watching.-

     One of a handful of Sanderlings in the flock-

     Something that you don't see very often; Purple Sandpipers foraging along the beach-

     Good close flight shot of a Purple Sandpiper-

     Time for a few more laps!-

     Line 'em up!-

     Time to stretch our wings!-

     Let's try the beach this time-

     I enjoyed the Shorebirds for nearly two hours, and decided it was time to leave. The Soundwatch was a big let down, but the Shorebirds made up for it. I stopped by the Nature Center Parking lot on my drive out, and it was busy with flocking Horned Larks.-

     At least the birds are paying attention to the sign!-

    Part 3, Day 5 "A Winter Calender Image", "The Icy Landscape"  Continues.....

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