Friday, January 2, 2009

Forgotten Photo Friday, Easy-peasy(?) gulls

It was December 23rd. We had some warm winds blowing out of the south into Gloucester Harbor. I noticed some small, twitchy-flying gulls flying out in the harbor. 99% of our gulls glide around the harbor, plop down in the water and behave like big gulls so when I see twitch little gulls, I grab the binocs.

They were hunting in the 25 MPH wind, looking for food, playing or what ever gulls do. The problem is that this makes for difficult birding. In order to give you an idea of the challenge, this is a full frame, un-edited photo of what I had to work with. This was certainly a time to “shoot first and ask questions later”.

© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Looking at this gull, we see some field marks. The bill in slender and black. The tail completely white and there a black ear spot.

© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

His behavior was flying low to the water and dipping in his bill, landing momentarily and flying off with more of a flutter than one would see with a big gull.

© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Next we see that the legs are a bit yellowish or reddish so there is little help in these photos. The primary feathers are white there is little to no black in the wingtips with some black in the trailing edges.

© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

With all of this information and consulting four field guides, I’m going to call the first photos as Bonaparte’s Gulls.

Our second gull has many more clues. First, he is a chunky little gull, black trailing edges on the wings, black tail band, ear spot, a red bill with black tip, brown and gray wings with white patches. This is a bit easier and can be called (after consulting the books) as a juvenile winter Black-headed gull.
© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

This may all sound learned when you read it but I had to put some work into making the final call. The point is that it isn’t impossible to work with gulls and even an old hand such as me has to scratch his head once in a while.

So don’t be afraid to shoot first and ask questions later. Today’s digital imaging is a boon for birders. In the old days, we would go out in the field with one or two books, binoculars and flown by the seat of our pants. Most of the time we would have gotten it right and sometimes we may have gotten it wrong. But we would always had the best of intentions.


Eve said...

I couldn't agree more Steve. The digital age has really helped in many way. Butterflies are SO much easier to ID now and then confirm. This was fun to see how you worked this out and now I can go and do the same confirmation in my book!
Fun fun!

Kallen305 said...

Love the gull pictures. They are so much prettier than the ones that eat at my yard.

Very good advise. Now I always try and take pictures of the birds I need to identify.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Digital cameras certainly have advantages but somehow I still seem to prefer the old 35mm. Maybe it is becasue I am more used to it. :) Birds can be difficult to id sometimes, but it is a great satisfaction when we can add a new one to our list.

Steve B said...

You are right, Eve, I would be lost when it comes to butterflies. Was that a skipper or a swallow tail? (See how much I have to learn?)

Hey Kim, regarding your Black ducks...that made me go back and look as some "mallards" I shot a couple of weeks ago...oops! Glad I had my camera and glad I say your post.

I know how you feel, Joan. In the film days, I hated all of the auto-this and P-mode that settings. Under protest, I bought a Nikon FM2 which just had a light meter and two knobs and shutter release! At least with digital, I don’t have to pay money to find out I totally botched the shot and I can do my own darkroom work.

Eve said...

Ha Ha! Ok Steve you really made me laugh with the skipper/swallowtail remark!!!

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