Today's birding adventure was a quick trip down to Cape May on this sunny day. Must have been in the 40's but with the sun shining on Sunset Beach, it seemed much warmer.
I pulled up to a rather crowded beach with a few of them even being birders. I decided to sit on the bench for a while facing the SS Atlantus and just scan the water with my bin's to see what I could find. Usually one sees their share of cormorants in a 'line-up' on board the ship but they must have all found warmer waters by this time of the year. A nice birding couple from Cape May sat next to as we all gazed at the gulls in the water. It was rumored that there was a black-headed gull to be seen and we surely saw 5-6 'winter' gulls with a black dot behind their eye. So the question that pondered me which immediately had me pull out my iPhone with the iBird Pro app was, what is the difference between a 'wintering' Black-headed gull and the Bonaparte's?
According to iBird.... wintering Blacked-headed gull:
"has a black spot behind eye"
According to IBird....a wintering Bonaparte's gull:
has dark spot behind eye'
Hmmmmm....sounds like birding the tropics as one has to decipher between a 'dark spot' and a 'black spot'....as they float in waves, ..up and down, up and down.
There are a couple of other differences too such as the Black-headed has a dark red beak while the Bonaparte's gull has a black beak. Well, we all know how that goes as a dark red beak looks like a black beak unless caught in the right angle to the sun. Another difference observed 'in flight' would be that a Bonaparte's has black wing tips and is more pale under primaries.
For a moment I really thought...I really thought that one of the birds had a bit of red in the beak. I saw it....the couple next to me didn't. So I decided to get my hiney off the bench and walk closer to the rocks jutting out.
I stopped....pulled my bin's up and gazed once more at any beak I could find. They all appeared at this moment to be black so, heck...might as well wait it out and see them in flight as for some odd reason, they get it into them that the 'floating' is better a few meters up the surf line. One by one over the course of a few minutes they would take flight for a few meters and each time, ....no, no Black-headed....all Bonaparte's. Oh well....5 Bonaparte's, or was that 6, or perhaps 5 Bonaparte's and 1 Black-headed hiding from me.
So overall---a nice sunny day watching seagull behavior.
Sunday....the weatherman 'said' it was going to be sunny and 61....so I ventured out to Forsythe. Hmmmm...weatherman wrong once more. What would it be like to have a job that you can have 'wrong' 90% of the time and you are still employed? How can they 'day after day' be wrong?
But the good news is that the snowy owls are back---just look for the line of cars parked along Wildlife Drive. I found em and luckily it wasn't hard to find the owl either. Just follow the linear direction of the scopes and cameras. This little guy was just hunkering down amongst the matted grass, totally unfazed by the several huge dark eyes belonging to large camouflaged lens aimed at it. Regardless not a lot of movement from the owl but an 360 degree turn of the head every so often to let all know that 'he knows' we are here. I could have waiting it out for a few hours to get that perfect shot but frankly I have seen a ton of snowy owls and while they are always a treat...I moved on.
SNOW GEESE-----that is what I moved to find. When I am birding an area I am very familiar with as well as the species, I love to just watch their behavior. This time what really got to me was the beauty of their flight and their ugliness of their landings. Now, take their flight.....
A flock of Snow Geese were nicely settled on the water just down the bend from the snowy owl. Every so often some would decide they needed to spread their wings more and off they would go. Others (probably the same ones who just flew) would have this real gentle flight pattern as they came in from behind me. They reminded me of military jets as they landed in tandem. Utterly graceful in flight with their striking black tips. .....
As evident by both images....their legs suddenly 'drop'.... as they near their mates already afloat on the water. They soar, glide...slowly drop and then begin to dangle their legs in flight. Upon closer reflection it occurred to me that their landing pattern appears just a bit too high and as they near touchdown, their gracefulness and beauty turns to clumsiness and awkwardness.
Rather than having a nice, long, smooth landing as that of a jetliner on the tarmac, their dangling legs prevent that from occurring. With their legs jutted out...they remind me of a Bugs Bunny Cartoon where Wiley Coyote digs his legs into the ground prior to going off a cliff or being blown up by the Road Runner. But none the less, they awkwardly find themselves on the water and immediately go thru this squawking noise as they adjust their wings, raise themselves above the water and flap away, then they tuck them in wait till their next impulse that tells them to take flight.
Go ahead...skip the line-up of cars viewing the 'one' snowy owl' and move on to the Snow Geese and just observe.