Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Part 2: All Kinds of Gulls on Cape Ann. Iceland Gull in Turner's Falls in MA

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.  

Adult AHG

First winter GBG

Adult 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!

Thanks for visiting. I am always thrilled to receive your comments and welcome any corrections or suggestions.


  1. Great sequence Hilke!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  2. Hi Hilke

    Still cold here -30c for a high today. But your shots of the gulls reminded me of some fun trips to the coast where a more experienced birding friend tried to teach us gull indentification.


  3. Jealous of your Iceland Gull! Love the ice-skating Ring-billed Gulls.

  4. nice job, and smart thinking on the muffin bribery! :)

  5. Gorgeous shots on the ice! Very, very nice!

  6. Great series! Those gulls on the ice almost look like they are skating.

  7. A wonderful series of images Hilke.. you have so many beatiful birds to see.

  8. A real gull fest there, great shots.

  9. Still only 0c here & rain on the way.

    Lovely selection of gulls Hilke.

  10. A great series of photos. I find all those gulls with different plumage for different ages very confusing! I'm glad you could retrieve the data from the card.

  11. magnificent photos! How is it the gulls webbed feet don't stick to the ice? The skating really looked so good in one capture especially; I could almost hear the Blue Danube playing in the background...

  12. Great post, Hilke! Congrats on your new gull. Wonderful photos. Have a great day!

  13. Gulls galore! Cool shots on the ice. Wonderful post, Hilke! It's always fun to watch the gulls. I have the most difficult time identifying them, though. Terrific images ... all of them!

  14. Thanks for the good pics, hilke.

  15. Gulls on ice? Skating even? Priceless shots Hilke, I'm glad you didn't lose them to technical hiccups!

  16. Thank you all for your comments. Good question, Carole, about why bird's feet don't stick to the ice. They have evolved a special circulatory mechanism whereby the arterial blood flowing into the feet is cooled by the venous blood returning to the body. This way the temp in their feet is kept just above freezing.

  17. was it gull day today at wbw, nice of us to participate without ever knowing!! haha

    sounds like a super fun outing, you got some amazing pictures!! it's so wonderful to hang with other people who enjoy birding so much!!

  18. Nice Gulls doing what they're used to. Brilliant photos.

  19. Watching gulls is always such a great fun!

  20. These photos are wonderful!
    My Fav is the one at the beginning where they look like they are icescating :D

  21. Wonderful post for the comparison of them... They are sometime so hard to ID...

  22. Some very nice shots of Gulls there! I am slowly learning the finer I.D. points of these amazing birds, a long way to go though!
    Follow me at HEDGELAND TALES

  23. Wonderful shots, Hilke! The Iceland Gull is so pretty!

  24. Oh this looks like it had to be delightful fun to view these wonderful birds!

  25. lol, it looks like the gulls are skating. I would not be surprised if they actually had fun.

  26. What a wonderfully comprehensive gull post Hilke.
    I love the first shot of the two gulls skating. The rear one looks like it is training for Olympic speed skating.

    The peel on the stove in my header is either orange or pomelo and drying out for fire lighters in the morning. Citrus peel makes great fire lighters when dried, not only for the oil content which gives it a hot burn but the thick pith of the pomelo especially is very combustible when dried.

  27. Looking at that gorgeous light on the grasses it looks like you had a great day for birding.
    My favorite shot is the skating gulls. That one put a huge smile on my face.
    A little warmup here hope you get the same.
    Thank you for your visit this week.

  28. ...my goodness! You really do have wonderful views of the gulls. I was just at Cathy's blog and saw she saw a Iceland Gull to in Gloucester. i've never seen one. Looks like a great trip!

  29. Great images and comparisons and informative narrative, Hilke!

  30. Hi there - I have just returned from the wild, woolly and less that wonderful world of wireless only internet - so now I'm catching up.

    Great set of pictures – gulls are such splendid birds. We really only get 3 species here and you can only expect to see 2 of those in most places. It reduces the variety, but does make the ID simple!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

  31. Hilke, that's a lot of birding! wow! great shots of all the gulls! I saw my first Iceland gull last week in Gloucester and it was sooo cold and the wind was gusting so hard that it was hard to get any kind of decent shot. I have yet to see a glaucous gull. Nice to see a photo though. I have so much to learn as far as gulls are concerned! Great info here.


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