I’ve become more and more obsessed with gulls, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with my ‘Gulls Simplified’ book by Pete Dunne and Kevin T. Karlson, and on the Facebook page North American Gulls. It’s put me in the mind of just trying to get out and enjoy the gulls while I still can. Our “season” for good gulling is quickly coming to a close. So, I headed out to the Newburgh Waterfront this evening to see what was going on. Gull numbers are certainly down a bit, but there were still plenty of birds to enjoy.
Unfortunately, most of the gulls were WAY out, and the heat shimmer was making it too difficult to sort through them. So instead, I focused on the nearby birds; they were mostly Ring-billed Gulls, but there was also a handful of immature Herring Gulls (HERG) and what I believe was a single immature Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG). I hope I am correct, otherwise this post will be a total embarrassing bust, lol. The bird (above) shows what Dunne and Karlson refer to as ‘piano keyed appearance’, it was slightly larger than nearby HERGs, and had a noticeable overall whiteness to it, compared to the more drab brown look of the HERG (below).
Both are good looking birds, but I have to say I’m partial to the GBBG, it’s a handsome beast. As the sun started to set and it cooled a bit, I was able to go through some of the distant gulls – nearly all Herring Gulls, with one adult Great Black-backed Gull and an Immature ICELAND GULL. Good gulling!
I had a fabulous day of birding today. I started out nice and early. I was in a great mood because once again it was a nice, sunny, cold, and crisp morning – perfect for winter birding. I hit the black dirt first; my first highlight wasn’t a bird, but a good looking Coyote. It’s been ages since I’ve seen one, so it really got me pretty damn excited. Not long after that, I had a nice sized flock of SNOW BUNTINGS. Again, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an actual flock of SNBUs, so it was great to see 35 or so of them together.
A little later, on Skinners Lane, I had a couple of interesting sparrows flush as I was driving along. They landed back on the road ahead of me, this time I got my bins on them – it was a pair of VESPER SPARROWS! The rest of my time in the black dirt was mostly uneventful. I ran across many birders presumably looking for the Ferruginous Hawk (it was relocated today, btw), so that was my cue to head home for lunch and avoid all the nonsense. On my way home I saw a light morph Rough-legged Hawk off of Maple Avenue, and then right around the corner from my house I got a great look at a young Cooper’s Hawk stalking a neighbor’s feeder.
In the afternoon, I headed to the Hudson River and met up with birding bud Bruce Nott. We had two excellent birds, both immature – ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS. I put the word out and eventually Rick Hansen joined us and we got him on both birds. As I was leaving, more birders were arriving, and Bruce later reported to me that they located an incredible 3 Glaucous Gulls! I was sorry to have missed that, but still, what a day!
I got a little bit of a late start this morning, but looking at the tide table, I would be arriving in Newburgh right at low tide. Plum Point was my first stop, mostly to check for gulls in Cornwall Bay. I only had a handful of Ring-billed Gulls, but I eventually located a RED-THROATED LOON. The bird appeared to be much closer to Donahue Memorial Park on the other side of the bay, so I headed over for a better look. Of course, when I arrived it took me ages to relocate the bird and it was way out from there as well. I’ve fallen for that trick way too many times.
Birding bud Bruce Nott had arrived at Plum Plum point shortly after I left. We communicated and after some searching he got on the loon. Afterwards, I met up with Bruce and I followed him to Quassaick Creek, where he had seen several Black-crowned Night-herons in recent days. When we arrive, there were 2 present and I was able to get a decent (if partially obstructed) shot of one of the birds.
From there, we headed to the Newburgh Waterfront. There was a decent number of gulls present; the most interesting being two young Great Black-backed Gulls. We lingered, hoping something good would fly in, and we weren’t disappointed. I spotted a tern flying north over the river and got Bruce on it right away. We tracked the bird in our scopes as it crossed the river to the Beacon area, where it seemed like it might want to stay for a bit, but then it started to circle up, higher and higher until I was looking through my scope almost directly above us and I lost the bird. Our impression is that the bird was a FORSTER’S TERN; it was a lighter bird with no darkness at the upper wingtips. Photos seem to support this, but I’m just not comfortable enough with tern identification to be sure. Still, it was the most exciting ten minutes of the day!
After the tern excitement, Bruce located a BONAPARTE’S GULL in beautiful plumage. Viewing this bird was also short-lived as an adult Bald Eagle flew in low and all the gulls scattered. I headed home after that; I checked on my Common Raven’s nest on the way home and they appear to have two young birds in the nest. It was a pleasant morning and early afternoon of birding, in spite of the cold temperatures and the intermittent rain.