Archive for Seabird

Northern Gannet 9/11/18

One of my all time favorites, I never tire of watching flocks of these seabirds circle and climb in the air to plunge dive for mackerel and other schooling fish. Once they pop back up to the surface like a giant cork, they rest-up for a few moments before flapping along the surface to get airborne and climb 50 to 100 feet for their next dive. Check out that blue eye! North American gannets spend most of their life in the air or on the water, only ever coming ashore to breed in one of only 6 colonies—3 of them in the Gulf of St Lawrence and another 3 off of Newfoundland.  Sexes are alike.


Northern Fulmars 7/24/18

Although they look very much like gulls, Northern Fulmars belong to the tubenose family which includes the shearwaters, albatrosses, and petrels. More specifically they are known as one of the 2 fulmarine petrels. The nasal passages attached above their bills are called naricorns which also have a specialized gland to help them excrete salt. You’ll only see these birds far out to sea where they are quite abundant and frequently scavenge behind fishing boats. Unlike any gull, they can also dive up to 10 feet underwater in pursuit of fish and squid. They come in both light and dark morphs and breed on remote cliffs. These were photographed near the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton Island and Newfoundland.


Herring Gull 12/12/17

Whenever people mention “seagull” they’re most often referring to the Herring Gull. They are aggressive scavengers who usually hang out not far from their food sources, and contrary to popular opinion, gulls in general do not venture very far offshore. Herring Gulls breed both along the coast as well as inland across boreal Canada, though their numbers grow considerably along the coasts in winter. In this photo are a variety of plumages. Adults have white heads and tails, light gray wings tipped in black, and yellow bills with a redspot. In winter their heads take on dirty streaks. Juvenile birds are a mottled brown all over, becoming more gray in the wings and more white everywhere else as they progress towards adulthood which takes 4 years. In all plumages they have pink feet.


Bonaparte’s Gulls 10/18/17

A lot of the notions we have about gulls don’t apply to Bonies. While you may see them migrating along the coast in fall or spring, they are not “sea” gulls in the way we think of Herring or Great Black-backed Gulls. Bonies breed in the northern boreal forests from Alaska to Quebec, nesting in trees. They are one of the smaller black-headed or “hooded” gulls, though in winter plumage their heads turn white except for a black “ear” spot behind the eye. Also unlike other gulls, they don’t scavenge. They feed primarily on insects, catching them on the wing like swallows. Here they are making a racket while pecking some small invertebrates from the surface of the water, a pit stop on their way south for the winter.


Bonaparte’s Gull, Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone 3/21/17

It can be annoying to bird at popular dog-walking spots. You’ve held still and low, perfectly quiet, patiently waiting for the incoming tide to bring shorebirds or diving ducks close while pretending to be just another rock among many, and then someone’s mutt comes lumbering along wanting to make friends with you and spoiling all that effort. But it can work the other way too. If you know something is around, say a Ruddy Turnstone among a flock of Purple Sandpipers but you don’t want to chase them from one location to another, with a little patience and a strategic perch, the roaming mutts will eventually send them to you.


Ring-billed Gull 3/8/17

Often people think of gulls as exclusively coastal birds, but Ring-billed Gulls breed in colonies near fresh water rivers and lakes all across the northern US and southern Canada making them the most numerous of all the North American gulls. In winter they become more common on the Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts as well as the Great Lakes, with some migrating as far south as the Caribbean and Yucatan. In winter plumage their white heads and necks take on a dirty streaking like they’ve been lightly splattered with mud. Ring-bills are considerably smaller than Herring or Great Black-backed Gulls. Adults have yellow feet and a yellow bill with a black ring near the tip while one and two year olds have mottled brown plumages with pink legs and pink bills with black tips.


Common Tern, adult and juve, 8/15/15


About 3000 pairs of Common Terns local to NH and Southern Maine nest and raise their young in a colony on Seavey Island in the Isles of Shoals. After fledging, the juveniles which lack the full black cap of adults, follow their parents to the mainland but continue to be fed and cared for until migration south begins at the end of August.


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