Thursday, March 29, 2012

Barnacle Gulls

My good friend and biologist Dennis refers to them as Barnacle Gulls, and that is not without reason.
An annual late winter, early spring phenonomon occurs on the western end of the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound, from New Haven on westward to Greenwich CT.
In this mostly rocky bottomed area massive plankton blooms occur, for the most part the major player here are barnacle larvae and in amounts that cannot be imagined.
Penfield Lighthouse, Fairfield, CT in the above photo.

Gulls, mostly Ring-bills and  lesser amounts of Herring are the most involved bird species in counting the plankton mass birds, along with them are  many Greater Scaup, Goldeneye, Long-tail, Brant,Scoter, Black Duck, American Wigeon and a few other species, that feed in the planktonic soup

This area off Fairfield CT, with buoy 22 in the distance, follows a very rock reef, locally known as Sunken Island, this has been a hotspot the past several years for barnacle gulls.
The next few photos are a birds eye view of what they are seeing and feeding on.

These thick plankton masses create a viscious water density, this looks like a calm water slick when viewed from above, but is next to choppy water.
On this trip we did stop in areas where the choppy sea calmed to small flat calm water.
Plankton were always visible in these area's, as were the planktavours.

In this photo of my fish finder, we are in 17.7 ft of water off of Bouy 22. Near the bottom, there is a mass of activity.
Are these other plankton masses? Other plankton feeders, or piscavours?
Herring, Smelt, Anchovies, Striped bass?
One follows the other.
Regardless, this fishfinder photo shows another world happening only a few fathoms below the surface of the  feeding plankton gulls.
This is the world we never see. Any divers out there, that would like to jump in and fill us in?
Your welcome on board!

A Harbor Seal loafing off Southport.

Some of the many thousands of Greater Scaup aloft, with a local shell fishing boat heading home.
Overall the gull count alone was over 30,000 and this trip.

More Scaup off Compo Beach, Westport, CT.

And more.

Back at the dock,  my friends and mentors,
Dennis and Frank.
They are the best of the best.
Always a pleasure to have either of them on board.