Looking at Gulls on Niles Pond, Gloucester
I like photographing gulls in the winter because that's when they congregate and allow you to come fairly close, but when I trying to guess their ages I often just throw my hands up. Looking later at my photographs, Howell's and Dunn's Gulls of the Americas comes in handy.
They are quite fearless, taking flight only if they see a raptor in the vicinity. We saw plenty of gulls on our trip, most of them on the far side of frozen Niles Pond sleeping or preening. I took hundreds of photograph, why I am not sure, because checking the images on screen on my camera I could easily see that none were sharp enough to be of any use. Still, hope against hope, the blue sky and the warm sun made the scene look so pretty with the long row of gulls on the blue ice in front of a curtain of buff-colored reeds.
On day 2 when we revisited the site I broke up a muffin saved from breakfast and tossed the pieces on the ice. i am not good at throwing, no further than a couple of feet from the shore. At first nothing happened, then finally a gull flew overhead, saw the bread landed at a cautious distance. A few others followed. Finally a couple of Ring-billed Gulls ventured closer and picked up pieces of the muffin.
It was quite slippery and the gulls kept sliding around on the ice.
Notice the stuffed cheeks
Most of the gulls that we saw were American Herring Gulls (AHG), Ring-billed Gulls (RBG) and Great Black-backed Gulls (GBG). Here are some photos of the AHG and the GBG:
Adult AHG and two immature GBGs
Adult RBG in front and immature GBG in the back
Mixed Group on Niles Pond. Most of these were AHGs of various ages. There are two adult GBG.
I wasn't sure about the ID the gull with the pink legs and the black-tipped bill. Here is a close-up, unfortunately not very sharp:
AHG, probably 2nd winter
The bill seemed to me uncharacteristically small for an AHG. Also the dove-like head and expression did not jive with my image of an AHG. I posted the photo on the iD Forum on birdforum.net. The responses I got confirmed that this was just an immature AHG; hoping for something more interesting was just wishful thinking. Apparently there is quite a range of bill sizes among the immature AHG.
First winter GBG
We also saw an Iceland Gull on Niles Pond but it was too far away for my camera. This past Sunday I drove to Unity Park in Turner's Falls in MA where gulls often congregate near the shore of the CT River. I was fortunate. Among them was a first winter Iceland Gull. We usually see one or two juveniles every winter. Adults rarely travel this far south.
I love that sweet expression - typical for an immature Iceland Gulls.
First winter Iceland Gull in front on the left and a second cycle AHG on the right
These photos are of an immature Glaucous Gull on the breakwater at Gloucester harbor, were taken a couple of years ago. It's a sturdy large gull, larger than an Iceland G, and has a pink bill with a black tip.
I had taken so many photos in RAW format that I ran out of space on my 8 GB card. I went back to my car for a spare 2 GB card which I filledl. When I tried to download the photos at home however I kept getting the question whether I wanted to reformat the card. Bad sign! No photos! I remembered the software I had bought from Seagate for when I had my Seagate hard drive disaster last October. It worked - I got all my photos back! I threw out the card and put another spare one into my gear bag rather than the car where it would be exposed to such variable temperatures.
It's still freezing here! Hope it's less extreme where you are. Happy birding!
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