Friday, March 19, 2010

Oyster River gulls

Mixed gull flock resting and feeding at the mouth of the Oyster River, Orange/Milford town line - yes, and one pigeon strolling through the foreground

Right after work I headed to the shore to see if I could locate the Bonaparte's Gulls which have been hanging around at the mouth of the Oyster River. This is a species which becomes more common along our coastline during late winter and early spring. There were at least 12 of these small, agile gulls mixed in with the usual flock of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.

I singled out the Bonaparte's Gulls by their fluttery, almost tern-like wingbeat, their overall much smaller size, uniquely marked black and white pattern in the wing and a small dark bill. They are still in non-breeding plumage, manifested by a dark "smudge" behind the eye, rather than the fully black cap of a breeding bird.

A short video, taken through my binoculars, of Bonaparte's Gulls, Chroicocephalus philadelphia, on the beach at the mouth of the Oyster River, Orange, Connecticut.

As the tide ebbed, the gulls shifted from feeding on what looked to be small minnow-like fish just offshore, to bathing in the fast-moving brackish current of the Oyster River as it flowed into Long Island Sound. After a period of bathing, they came up to the sandy shore to preen.

So the same Oyster River from which a West Campus robin took a drink at lunchtime, is now afternoon bathwater for the local gull population. There's a water cycle for you.

this photo is cropped from the larger one above - the Bonaparte's are the smaller gulls in front, and also sit with the tail and wingtips tilted up quite high

this is also cropped from the same photo from above - there are three Bonaparte's Gulls on the beach, the far left, the far right and the smaller gull in the center back

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