Friday, April 2, 2010

Bad day to be a Bonaparte's Gull

It was an incredible few hours out on the boat today, the islands are loading up with birds preparing for the new nesting season that is upon us.
The eight existing osprey nest sites are now all filled, most just in the last day or two.
The bird pictured on the right, just arrived today, yes that's the first nest stick just below the osprey. Several pair were trying to copulate, and others were disputing nest sites
These were not the only birds having disputes today, as I was checking out the Cockenoe Island heron nesting sight, I noted a flock of gulls having a issue, but something was different here, a Peregrine was harassing the flock, I watch for a few moments and realized there were two falcons, not one and that they were after one particular gull, that gull was a lone Bonaparte's which was striving to save it's life.
The gull could not take wing to get away, since as soon as it would try the falcons were be all over it. The only thing it could do is try to dive into the water, the peregrines would always stop short of getting their talons wet.
This went one for at least five minutes, the falcons finally tired and the boney slowly took wing and flew off in the opposite direction.
Getting back to Cockenoe Island, I could see many white patches in the trees around the southern shore, I counted twenty five Great Egrets sitting in their nest trees, their nuptial plumes were all puffed out.
Over at Goose Island, the Double-crested Cormorant factory has now grown to over one hundred individuals, one lone Great Cormorant was along the western shore, which was packed with an easy two hundred Great Black-backed Gulls, the largest number I have ever seen on any one island around Norwalk. To complete the list of the island were four hundred Herring Gulls and two American Oystercatchers.
Checking out one of the local rock piles for shorebirds, I came across two Black-backs pecking away at something, that something was a still alive Black Duck that was on its last legs.
I felt very sad for this bird, but this is a real life and death game that is played out each and every day in nature, most of us never see this world, I know that it is not up to me to change nature's course. I play no part.
Well at least I found a few Purple Sandpipers, six Dunlin and a lone Turnstone, in this area laying very low as not to be noticed by the gulls.
Still an impressive number of at least one thousand Long-tails around, but outside of that the winter duck numbers have taken a dive.
Please click on any of these pictures to enlarge.

A quick mating attempt

Rebuilding the nest that was lost during the winter.

Numbers are growing, just wait to see what happens
at this place! I'll keep you posted

Showing off their nuptial plumage

This is why they are named "double-crested"

Male Long-tail in alternate plumage.

That old "carrot-billed sparkplug" again.
Their numbers seem lower so far this year.

The start of this years heron colony on Cockenoe Island

"Aigrette" French for plume

Peregrine Falcon stooping on Bonaparte's Gull

Boney hits the water as the falcon pulls up

Gulls attempt to get below the water as Peregrine stoops.
Note the hole in the water in which the Boney sits,
he hit the water HARD to evade this predator!

This gulls acts as though I just interrupted
the mugging. I'm guilty


  1. It is tough to see such things as the attack on the Black Duck by those Great Black-backed Gulls. Nature ain't always so grand.

    I was glad to see that you entered that big number of Long-tailed Ducks into eBird. It can't hurt to get that kind of data into the records.

  2. Hey Charlie,
    It's heart wrenching to watch, but so were the Peregrine's on the gull, on the other hand, I felt very honored as a guest of Nature to be part of these events
    Frank posted 1,500 Long-tail off Stratford today, I'm glad I'm not the only one that say's these birds are there. Just staging for some last minute feeding before that final push up north I guess.

  3. My mom can't even take me feeding my reptiles live animals!! But hey, that is life. Life that has been going on for a staggering number of centures/millenia BEFORE the human mind came around to but the 'ego' in play.

    Sounds like a great day, Larry! My trip contdown is T-minues 36 days and counting. I'd love to join you once more before I take off into the middle of nowhere for 2 months!!

    What was the seal population looking like??


  4. I went at last minute yesterday, other wise I would have called you, there are a few seals hanging around but as more and more boats start heading out they will leave.

  5. Hi Larry,
    GREAT blog! I happened upon it from Nautigal on Twitter. I'm going to share it on Facebook as well. I have a sailing charter business in Westbrook and live next to a bird sanctuary in New Haven.
    Wonderful photos and information.
    Thank you,

  6. Very interesting. I did not know that 'egretta' was french for plume!

  7. Thanks,Capt.Joy and Robin.
    Sorry, I believe the correct spelling is "aigrette"