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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Foreboding Sky & Uncommon Gull

On Martin Luther King Day I took the train to Coney Island in search of rare gulls and seaducks.

The weather was strange with foreboding skies looming overhead. It sometimes felt like a tornado was brewing just over the horizon. An unbroken black line marked the edge between a curtain of dark-gray scalloped clouds and white, thin clouds edge by a hazy, pastel-tinted sky. I stood on the fishing pier scanning the water for flocks of scoters or eiders, but kept peering up at the sky wondering if it was safe to be out over the bay. The scarcity of birds on the water made me think that they knew something that I didn't, but should.

I walked the 2 mile stretch from the pier to the beach at Coney Island Creek Park and set-up my scope facing Gravesend Bay and the Verrazano Bridge. The horizon to the north showed an eerie, gold hue. There were a few scattered Common Goldeneye in the location, but a flock of Bonaparte's Gulls close to the shore towards Norton's Point seemed interesting. I thought there was a chance that the Black-headed Gull might be within the flock and started walking up the beach.

I stopped near the remains of an old pier and set up my scope to digiscope some photos of the gulls. As I was fumbling with my camera I realized that there had been an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach directly in front of me. By the time I saw the bird he was paddling out towards the middle of Gravesend Bay. I was able to take at couple of poor photographs in the dim lighting before it flew farther out into the water. I immediately called Doug to tell him about the rare sighting. He surprised me when he said, "We'll see you in about 30 seconds." Apparently he and Shane had just pulled up in Shane's car and were walking towards the beach. The gull had moved closer to the opposite side of the bay, but was still clearly visible as it fed by picking food from the surface of the water. Last February I spotted one in Prospect Park and have much better photos in the posting here.

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