Saturday, January 31, 2015

More Arctic Birds in the BK

     Last weekend, a snowy owl at Floyd Bennet Field brought a little Arctic flare to Brooklyn, but reports have been coming in for the last week, week and a half about another Arctic visitor, an Iceland gull.
     People usually don't give much thought to gulls, that are often labeled across the board as "sea gulls." But not all gulls live by the sea, they can be found many many miles from it, they can live near freshwater, brackish water, and near salt water. And my favorite kind of gulls are the ones that live on bays, they go great with some cream cheese and lox. (See what I did there??)
     So the everyday people just see "sea gulls," but if you take a closer look there is more than meets the eye. I will say, generally, gulls have a very similar appearance among them regarding shape, coloration, and behavior- and heck, sometimes even sound. They even vary within their species, because they way they look can tell you approximate age, and if you aren't paying attention to the weather, the season, based on their plumage.
     The Iceland gull, while very different looking, in a birders eye is admittedly hard to first spot when the birds around it are in general, similar. But once you find it, you can't stop thinking how much this gorgeous bird stands out from the crowd.
     Oh yeah, and YAY, this one is a lifer for me! This gull gets a mark in my book.

WARNING... a lot of pictures of gulls ahead...

Guls overhead and all around! Juvenile ring billed gull.
1st winter Iceland gull- if you'd like to understand plumage terminology- I found this helpful.  
Iceland gull flying by at eye-level.

It felt like Iceland. The wind was blowing and the temperatures took a plunge today. I was wearing three layers for pants, double layer socks, with my super-duper winter boots. Glad I made such choices. Salt water requires lower temps to freeze, so here you have it, frozen salt water in Gravesend Bay proves it was darn cold out there!
Brant flying in to rest on the bay.
Ring billed gulls - compared to the Iceland have black markings on wing tips and tail, also they are smaller in size.

Oh yeah, this is also where I am birding from. Very unassuming, a shopping center, Caesar's Bay Bazaar in Bath Beach.
Many flyovers by Canadian geese.
Iceland Gulls do come from Iceland, but the gulls from Iceland migrate to Europe. This Iceland gull probably originated in the high Arctic in NE Canada. They migrate south but spread themselves out very sparsely, so they are considered a rare sight for the area.
More info on Iceland gulls can be provided here, via Cornell.
These gulls, including the Iceland, are omnivores, but uncooked rice and rice cakes are on today's menu. These food items are not recommended for wild birds.
Scoping out competitors for food.

I approched a few folks and spoke to them why spreading bread, rice, and other "human foods" are bad for wildlife. Half these foods aren't really good for us. Also, if these foods are past date, or lay around gathering mold, it can lead to birds getting Asper, a fungal infection that will kill. The DEC provides plenty of reason why feeding birds bread and table scraps are not good- specifically to waterfall - but this goes for all.

This provides an excellent chance to see the Iceland gull compared to a juvenile (right) and adult (bottom) ring-billed gull. The Iceland is much larger, even though it is further away, also no black markings on feathers, a thicker bill that seems shorter too.