Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Walk on the Beach

 [4th cycle (right, near adult) and 2nd cycle (a little over a year old) Lesser Black-backed Gulls, on the beach at Stone Harbor Sunday.]

I hadn't been to Stone Harbor Point since before I went to Alaska in June, an unusual circumstance for me since it's one of my favorite places. Especially in the evening when the beach crowds have thinned and the light is warm, the walk to the tip is a great way to regroup the stories in your mind, see some birds, dip a toe, turn over a shell, maybe take some pictures. Makes me want to keep it a secret, but there I've gone and told you.

It seems that nothing in the way of tern or skimmer nesting happened on the point this year - its topography currently allows flooding at full and new-moon tides over most of the point, and Champagne Island fell into the sea, though the sandbars left behind in Hereford inlet host gulls, terns, and a few shorebirds. I'm sure steady searching would turn up something rare.

Though none were nesting, there certainly were terns to see Sunday night - Commons, mainly, heading inland to their colonies up on wrack in the salt marsh west of Nummy Island, also a few Forster's, and a few Royals. Many of the Royals had youngsters in tow, presumably birds that nested to our south but came up for good late-summer foraging.

Four Lesser Black-backed Gulls were a bit of a treat. There still, as far as I know, has not been proven nesting of Lesser Black-backed in North America, apart from individual birds paired with Herring Gulls.

[This Lesser Black-backed Gull, the same individual as the one in the photo above right, will look like an adult at the end of this molt. It's replaced 4 primaries, started a 5th, and shed most of its greater (secondary) coverts.]

[Another gull in molt, this one a Ring-billed.]

 I'm always pleased to see the Ring-billed Gulls come back, they get scarce to absent in early summer, since the nearest they nest is the north shore of Lake Erie, I believe. Someday I'd like to visit a RBGU colony, I find this bird particularly striking, probably because it was the common gull where I spent most of my adult life, in Hunterdon County, NJ, with thousands flying over my home there each morning in evening as they headed out and back from reservoir roosts.

[Lesser Black-backed Gull. How old is it?]

 [Royal Tern chick, bottom, about to get a meal from mom or dad. Speaking of chicks, there was this chick sitting on the beach just left of these terns, and I think she thought I was taking her picture. . .]

[How many species can you find in this photo? I am sure there are 3, that's easy - but could there be 4? Top 4 are Semipalmated Plovers, rightmost is a Sanderling, how about the two little ones, same or different?]

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