Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fishing and Clamming Gulls

With a touch of spring fever almost in the air this afternoon, I called my old friend Towny Dickinson to join me on the boat to do some seaduck photography.
Of course Long-tail were just about everywhere, never easy to get close to, but we were able to catch a few decent shots.
On the way in, we saw a few raccoons feeding along the shore of Chimmons Island, as we followed the shoreline around the corner we came across a Great Black-backed Gull feeding on something significant at the waters edge.
This bird had a fresh winter flounder that it was trying to swallow whole, the flounder was of decent size, probably a pound and a half, just a tad to large for an easy gulp.
As we aproached, the gull flew off with the fish, but dispite the gulls size it could not carry this prey for long and dropped it on the beach.

It returned for the fish, we then left the gull alone to feed in peace.
Another note, many Black-backs are back on their nesting grounds at Goose and Long Beach Islands in Norwalk, we noted a number of them in bright breeding plumage, staking claim to their nest sites.
Sounds crazy, this early right? In another month Double-crested Cormorants will be setting up shop in these same areas.
First come, first serve.

We watched a few Herring Gulls feeding on mussels along the expose shore at White Rock,
but as we entered Norwalk Harbor, I stopped the boat at Round Beach, the small hummock type island a few hundred yards south of the western side of Calf Pasture Beach.
I was in particular looking out for any plankton feeding gulls in the area, non of these gulls were doing that.
Instead what we found were Herring Gulls along the shoreline in just inches of water, many were tipping over, head submerged below the surface, what were they feeding on?

Hard Shell Clams!
I shouted "Wow! Towny, look at that he caught a clam"
We then watched in amasement as these gulls were coming up with Little Necks and Cherrystones Clams, with seemingly no effort.
 After studying this behavior for a bit, I joked to Towny that this reminds me of when I was a kid, when we would walk the shallow waters at low tide and feel for clams with are feet....

Guess What?

This is exactly what these gulls were doing, they were feeling for clams with their feet.
They would almost never dip their heads below water with out coming up with a clam.

I mentioned to Towny that these gulls must be of different DNA than the ones found in trash dumps.

A nice look at a Bufflehead in the harbor.

Although there are a good number of deer on the islands, this is the first winter that I have seen them on Cockenoe Island, these four were from there today.
This area here is Oystercatcher nesting zone, eggs could be trampled in the up coming months.
How is the heron colony going to deal with these guys?
Once they eat out all the undergrowth, as they have on all the other islands,
(some that were major heron rookeries in the past)
will these birds still find it hospitible to nest here?
The heron/egrets stopped nesting on Chimmons Island soon after the deer and raccoons moved in.
I thought Cockenoe was these birds last safe haven out here.
I don't like this, stay tuned.
I didn't forget Part Two of Scoter Feeding grounds, I just have not completed my homework, it's coming.
Please don't forget this upcoming weekend is
The Great Back Yard Bird Count
It's free and easy to participant, plus being very important to the future welfare of our many bird species.
If you only saw one cardinal in your travels, it's still important to scientist.
Have some fun and report your sightings!
This is also a great way to get kids involved first hand with nature
Give it a try!

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