Thursday, 16 August 2012

2CY American Herring Gulls

They might not be pretty but I was hoping to see more of these brutes than I managed. Here are the two 2CY individuals that came into photographic range. The flying bird was offshore and the other was on Marconi Beach, MA, in July.

Edit: found another pic of a different, but very similarly plumaged bird (right), also offshore.

Also here are some very heavily cropped pics of another 2CY American Herring Gull showing off its dark tail feathers.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

East coast Wilson's Storm Petrel

East coast of the States that is. A twitchable WISP on the East coast of Scotland might even have me chasing...

I was very pleased to finally get some decent views of Wilson's Storm Petrels (off Cape Cod, MA, in July) - after all they are reputed to be one of the world's most abundant species of birds. Off Cape Cod they certainly weren't uncommon though there were not keen to hang around close to any of the whale watching boats - no chumming on these trips!

Unlike me they were on their winter vacation, seeking refuge from their Antarctic breeding grounds. Taking advantage of the northern summer to feed up and moult.

 Here are a few more shots to help get my eye in for next time... on this side of the Atlantic, please.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Badly dressed eiders

One of the highlights of our summer trip to Cape Cod was the whale watching out from Provincetown. The whales were abundant, diverse and spectacular and the birds weren't bad either. As we left the harbour we sailed past these Dresser's Eiders. This taxon is either considered to be a North American form of the Common Eider or a distinct species in its own right. I don't mind either way, but the drakes are certainly distinctive with the enlarged lobes stretching up their faces.

Here are two different males - the only two I managed shots of. I am not sure how variable the lobe shape is in this form but like other eiders I have seen there is a slight variation in lobe shape even in this tiny sample... Not much variation in their plumage though - universally grotty...

The females do not share the extensive lobes and I am not sure whether they could be distinguished from our birds easily. I have lightened this picture to get an idea of the lobe shape in this female Dresser's Eider; it appears to extend gracefully toward the eye.

Finally here are some moulting male Common Eiders photographed at Musselburgh a few days ago - puny lobes in comparison to the males above. And no better dressed either...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Something about Ring-billed Gulls

There is something in the way she moves, 
attracts me like no other guller

as Harrison might have written in his classic song. Had he been writing about Ring-billed Gulls rather than lovers. And had he been Peter Harrison of Seabirds fame rather than George Harrison of Beatles fame, perhaps.

Anyway, Ring-billed Gulls do have a distinctive gait. They hold their heads high and stride forward on long legs.

Further proof that it may just have been Peter Harrison that penned Something is found in the third verse, which appears to urge all gull watchers to be optimistic yet also realistic...

Stick around, and it may show,
But I don't know, I don't know

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Colour Ring-billed Gull

After multiple misread gull rings at Alnwickhill over the last year I was delighted to find that the nearest adult Ring-billed Gull on Marconi Beach in Cape Cod in July was sporting a fine piece of bling. Well I'll be gol darned if its not mighty close enough to read and captured on camera n'all - things are just so much easier stateside it seems.

It turns out that this Ring-billed Gull was ringed at the Ile Dirette, Laval, near Montral in Quebec in June 2010 as an adult and is a male. 

Here are some more adult Ring-billed Gulls loafing on the sands. Great birds in my opinion, but not a feeling shared by everyone - I think that one of the motivations behind the colour ring studies in Canada is to try to understand this species behaviour better in order to reduce the conflict between the Ring-billed Gull and residents of cities such as Montreal...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

First-summer (2CY) Ring-billed Gulls, Cape Cod, MA

Continuing with Ring-billed Gulls, these second calendar year birds are of an age that, in theory at least, is a little more likely to be seen here on the East coast of Scotland than yesterday's juveniles. Again two individuals were present on Marconi Beach, foraging at the end of the day for scraps dropped by tourists taking advantage of July's heatwave.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Juvenile Ring-billed Gulls

One of the benefits of travel for a birder is that even the most common birds seem twice as interesting as those back home. If they happen to be gulls then even more-so for me. Consequently I have several times more images than I probably need of these two juvenile Ring-billed Gulls photographed on 13 July at Marconi beach on Cape Cod. These were the only two juvs that I saw; the species does not breed in the area so these two had dispersed from a breeding colony further north or west.

Of the two, you will notice that the one above is more strongly marked all over, with lots of dark smudgy marks on the tail and body. The other bird (below) more closely resembles a young Common Gull and could easily slip by without being noticed this side of the Atlantic. The wing on the Ring-bill is broader, particularly at the secondaries, there are some heavier anchor-like markings on the tips of the greater coverts, the bill shape is a little heavier with a more pronounced gonys, and the mantle seems a bit more coarsely patterned but all-in-all quite a subtle identification.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Waving not drowning

Thought I'd post this pic from our summer holiday in New York and Cape Cod. This shot was obviously taken on a whale watching trip from the latter location. A magnificent close encounter with a breaching Humpback was certainly a wildlife highlight to remember - and experienced by all the family as well, which was a real bonus.

Like the whale I am surfacing briefly for air after quite some time submerged... I hope to start posting more regularly again. Probably a drip feed of a few shots from the US to get started again...