New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Friday, January 10, 2014

" White-winged Gulls"- January 3 continues, and Jan 2, 1 and Dec 31

     Friday, January 3 continues........ When I was home later going through my images, I spotted this tail banded 1st cycle Gull behind this light 2nd cycle Kumlien's Gull. There were over four hundred Gulls on the beach today, and I never noticed this one. Obviously I was focusing all my attention on all the White-winged Gulls; it was a bit overwhelming. Without any other images of this tail banded Gull, I am just going to presume it is a 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull. I do this because it is too small and narrow winged for a Greater Black-backed Gull, and besides not resembling an "argentatus" Herring Gull.....I have no experience with one>

      Close-up of the tail band>

      One of the only few times I was able to photograph this paler 2nd cycle Kumlien's Gull on the beach. It is normally very shy and doesn't land on the beach.>

     As I was getting ready to leave....I noticed this dark Kumlien's Gull on the extreme left peripheral on the beach. I was only able to take this one image before many of the Gulls lifted up and I lost sight of it.  I have no information about this Gull.>

     As I always do, I search through all the Gulls one last time before I go to see if I missed anything or anything slipped in without me knowing. This is what happened a few weeks ago with that huge Glaucous Gull. I was leaving, and took one last look on the beach to my right, and there it was! I had no idea where it came from, but it was standing on the beach!

      Right out in front of me, was this really oddly marked 1st cycle Gull swimming to my left on the outer peripheral of the floating flock of Gulls. I could only make out the silhouette, since the Gull was backlit from the bright sun. The Gull was about twenty-five yards out from the beach (these images are cropped and lightened)   I recognized it as a Kumlien's Gull, but the barring was a bit unusual, showing quite a bit of light plumage between. Never saw one marked like this before....just compare to the other 1st cycle birds in this report.>

     After about twenty minutes, this bird lifted off the water (finally) and landed on the beach in a better position with the sun to observe it>

    The markings and the wing was quite dark>

     When the Gull landed, I could fully see its plumage and of course its was small. This is also a new Gull for Circle Beach.

      This Gull is really different than all the other Gulls I have seen.>

      It also had a drop of ice stuck to the top of its head>

    When the bright sun caught this Gull at the correct angle, its unique plumage is highlighted>

      Handsome Gull, not much bigger than a Ring-billed Gull>

    This Gull was also timid about joining the other remained isolated on the extreme east corner of the small beach cove and preferred to keep company with the Dunlin, Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers>

     A few more study flying shots as the Gull came and went from the beach>

     When the other Gulls approached too closely, it took off to an open spot and landed again>

    Good study of the primaries gray values>

    I watched this Gull for nearly an hour. Here are a few parting shots. I never saw this Gull again on Circle Beach!>

     With this storm came the extreme high tides and continuing strong and cold northerly wind! The entire East River marsh system was flooded to the point of looking like a large lake. In may spots, the water flooded the road leaving only a few small spots for the small birds to find dry ground. These Sparrows were able to find a small strip of land and ice on the edges of Circle Beach Road>>

     With the Sparrows were a few small bunches of American Pipits>

    As I drove by the Madison section of Circle Beach, I saw another Gull (which I assume) is one of the other 2nd cycle Gulls flying over my truck. I pulled over to take some photos>

     It made two circles, and then flew over towards the boat ramp>

     Following close behind was an adult, this one was FC. He made a single circle and then flew up into the East River marsh>

     That was interesting! Just as I started to leave, I looked over and noticed this 2nd cycle Kumlien's Gull swimming along the rocks looking for crabs. I realized that this was a new Gull to the beach. This 2nd cycle Gull was much larger and showed more advanced gray scapulars and wing coverts, and has a bright blue/gray bill. This was the seventh (or eighth ?) Kumlien's Gull this morning. It was starting to get real confusing trying to keep track of all these Kumlien's Gulls!>

     This Kumlien's Gull flew by well off shore, and I have no idea if it is one of the continuing Gulls or a new one. It just few by and kept heading west. Disclaimer!- Because I am actually writing this report late in January, I am recapping what I wrote in my notes from this day.....and as I re-read them and try to make sense of them, I am really confused by this day. I honestly couldn't keep track of all the Kumlien's Gulls on the beach this day. There were so many coming and going, and because of the added problem from the awkward angle (from the bright sun) that I had to view the Gulls, I am recounting this day the best I can. It is quite possible that I may have counted a gull or two twice, or maybe not at all! >

     These images are heavily cropped, I don't know which Gull it is! Looks like my instincts abut the storm payed off!>

    Circle Beach Road changes to Ridgewood Road at the sharp corner (where Circle Beach on the, Madison side the town line) begins. Ridgewood Road changes to Neck Road around the second sharp corner. I was just approaching the Ridgewood and Neck Road change-over when I looked up to see a few Gulls passing over very had bright white wings! I opened my window in a hurry and managed to take a few shots before the Gulls vanished over the East River marsh>

    Later when I downloaded all the images from the day (2,107), I was curious about this Gull. I was actually wondering how FC could have traveled so far, and why was he flying so high!? When I cropped the images, I found that it was not FC but a different adult Gull; one that I hadn't seen before. I didn't recognize the gray markings on the tips of the primaries. Another new Kumlien's Gull today....that made (eight?)  for the morning. As I mentioned above, I believe I had eight Gulls this day, but it is possible there may have been ten or eleven!>

     Thursday, January 2, Hammonasset Beach, SP-  The storm is on its way! Yesterday afternoon after Jen and I left, a Black Guillemot was found by Dan Rottino sparking more excitement in the State. Like many of us, we wanted to hit Hammo this morning and see if it could be re-found. When I got there, a small group of birders had already assembled: Sara Zagrorski (left), Frank Mantlik (center), Tina Green (right) and Paul Wolter (below second image)>

     Soon John Oshlick (right) joined the group>

         In the wind and heavy sea, not much was happening. I took a walk to the end of the Moraine Trail, but found absolutely nothing! I soon decided to take a ride over to Circle Beach for Gulls, and Sara followed me over. The Gulls came, but interestingly enough, not one Kumlien's Gull showed up- not one! But this one double-banded 3rd cycle Ring-billed Gull appeared and it was actually quite tame!>

     It walked up and came very close to us. It soon revealed that it had one patagial wing tag, the other obviously had fallen off. The Gull was so tame that it allowed Sara to walk up to it within a few feet where she was able to read the number on the remaining curled wing tag!>

     The number was A1041>

     A few days later, I received the report from Ken MacKenzie. The Gull was captured and tagged on Revere Beach near Boston on March 15, 2013, and the sighting on Circle Beach today was the first sighting of this Gull since it was tagged.

     We stayed about fifteen minutes, and we didn't see one set of White-wings! As we were getting into our cars to leave. I looked over and spotted this very small adult Kumlien's Gull swimming on the outer edge of the Gulls swimming towards the beach!>

     This small Gull was new to the beach....I had not seen it before. Besides its smaller size, it has this collar of brown feathers on its side neck and upper chest. This was really different to all the Gulls so far.>

     This Gull was also very timid and was easily picked-on by the surrounding Herring Gulls.>

      But this Gull was also quite different with its all white and unmarked primaries>

    It also appeared to have swollen salt glands above its eyes.....I wondered if it just came to salt water?>

     This small Kumlien's Gull had a "glaucoides" look to it with its petite profile and build, very small bill and white primaries. Obviously it is not a nominate Iceland Gull, but it sure had the essence of one! Although the wing tips were white, there was a residual vary pale gray wash to the inner vanes, the mantle color was too dark, and the yellow/gray irids were lightly freckled. But it sure felt good seeing this bird knowing this is probably as close as I will ever come to a nominate "glaucoides" Iceland Gull here in New England.....but I am always hopeful!>

     Additional views of this petite white-winged Gull>

   I mentioned to Sara that just down the road a few flocks of Shorebirds had been hanging out on Grass Island (not exactly an island, but it is called one). The flocks of Shorebirds consisted of Dunlin, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and a few Purple Sandpiper. There was also a 1st cycle Kumlien's Gull that preferred to hang out there on the beach. So we drove the short distance to the end of the road to  Grass Island. Sure enough, we were greeted by one of the flocks of Shorebirds which contained two Purple Sandpipers>

     Another flock>

    This flock passes by and then turns back towards the beach>

     I decided to go back to Hammo to try again for the alcid. On my way I stopped at East Wharf in Madison. I found this drake Mallard x Black Duck hybrid with really interesting side pocket feathers that reminded me of a hen Common Eider!>

     Just off the seawall on Middle Beach Rd, the drakes in his flock of Common Goldeneye were actively displaying>

      More Sanderling flying up and down the beach>

     At Hammo, the only bird of interest was a single Lapland Longspur mixed in with the  flock of Horned Larks in the Nature Center parking lot. On arriving home, my daily turkey flock was assembled in my front yard picking the spilled sunflower seed from my feeders. These three were up in my Hemlock trees picking bittersweet berries.>

      They flew down to the ground and joined the other twenty-one Turkeys from the flock.>

       Wednesday, January 1, Circle Beach-  Happy New Year!!!  Well Jen and I decided to start the New Year by finding a White-winged Gull! So off to Circle Beach where we ran into Denise Jernigan (right)  and Kris Johnson (left)....they apparently had the same idea! Well, not a single Kumlien's Gull flew to the beach, sorry ladies!>

   As we were leaving, and just passing by the Madison side of Circle Beach; you guessed it......a 1st cycle Kumlien's Gull and FC were flying around the beach. I was waving to Kris and Denise to tell them as they drove by, but they didn't see me!>

          After a visit with Jen's parents, we decided to go to Hammonasset Beach to take a walk and to see if the Snowy Owl was still there. Pulling into the Cedar Island/Willard's Island parking lot, a small crowd had gathered along the eastern edge of the field by the marsh....maybe the Snowy Owl was there? In the distance we could see a dark shape on top of one of the Osprey platforms, but it didn't look white.>

     As we gt closer, the dark shape on the platform became more obvious; it was a Great Horned Owl! It appeared to be mantling something on the edge the platform.>

     It was only perched there for a minute or two, and then it flew down to the marsh completely out of sight>

     We walked the Cedar Island Trail to the observation platform (which was full of birders). Across the marsh in a cedar tree was the Snowy Owl. Not bad....a Great Horned and a Snowy Owl within a hundred yards of each other!>

     The full platform....the Owl is visible in the distance on the left>

     At one point, a Black Duck apparently flew too close to the Owl. The Owl jumped off its perch and the chase began!>

     The Black Duck was too fast for the broke off the chase......

      ......and flew back towards the shoreline passing by the observation platform>

     It eventually landed on the shoreline farther to the east>

      The Great Horned Owl was chased out of the marsh by someone with a net (thinking the Owl was injured??) and it landed in the trees near the trail>

      From the tops of those trees it took off and headed towards the west>

     It landed in the trees directly above the Cedar Island Trail>

     All you needed to do was stand on the Trail and look straight up!>

      The Owl not really happy with its choice of a perch, took off once again and flew across the marsh.....

      .....where it dropped down once again in a creek in the middle of the marsh. That was an excellent and unexpected Owl encounter. A Great Horned and a Snowy Owl all within a hundred yards of each other, and within a half hour's time!! >

     December 31, 2012, Circle Beach- New Years Eve.....I made a quick run down to the beach to see what the last day of the year would bring. I ran into Paul Wolter and we looked for white-winged Gulls. That didn't take long as this almost pure white 1st cycle Kumlien's appeared in the flock of three hundred Gulls that had swarmed to the beach. This Gull was where I usually find them....on the outer edge of the Gull flock>

     This Gull to me, this is a classic example of what I believe a Kumlien's Gull looks like.....cleanly rounded head, small bill, slightly elongated shape, long primary extension, upward angled tail, and the Gull appears to float elegantly and effortlessly on the water. What a beauty! Probably the most beautiful 1st cycle Kumlien's Gull I have ever seen!>

     Yeah, I know, I'm boring you! :^)>

     Paul and I went to the end of the road at Grassy Island. Paul told me that he spotted another 1st cycle Gull along the beach. When we got there, the Gull was by itself near the small seawall by the last house. Typical Kumlien's Gull.....staying on the outer edge of the other Gulls. It was the same Gull that Russ Smiley found yesterday right after I had left the beach in the morning. While we were watching the Gull, another birder walked up, and we introduced ourselves, and met Lynn Stone who was moving back into the area. Welcome back Lynn!

      I really like Greater Black-backed Gulls, so I took a few shots of this one>

     Can you find the 1st cycle Kumlien's Gull in these images? Hint....look on the peripheral of the flock!>

      December Gulling and other birding reports will continue.....I will post them later. Please check back from time to time! Thanks for reading my blog!

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT