Ontelaunee Black-backed Gulls

Today was a good day for gulls at Ontelaunee. When I arrived there were several hundred circling around in the air, giving a shimmering effect when they banked and caught the sunlight just right. They almost gave the impression of snow. While they were getting their act together and collecting to a more impressive flock of 1600 or so, I scanned the flocks of geese and ducks. Only one each of Tundra Swan and Snow Goose but in all the groups of Canada Geese I did find one smaller goose which was potentially a Cackling Goose. Recently split from the Canada Goose, Cackling Geese are significantly smaller and have short stubby bill. It can be quite a recreational activity combing through big flocks of Canada Geese in hopes of seeing one of these smaller, more rare geese.

By this point the circling gull flocks were fairly impressive so I drove to a spot where I could scan through them when they were in the water. Mostly Ring-billed Gulls of course but a nice smattering of Herrings, mostly immatures, here and there. As I reached the far end of the flock I noticed some gulls that were significantly darker. Zooming in I counted 5 Great Black-backed Gulls and 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The count of LBBG’s is easily the highest I have seen at Ontelaunee and is a real testament to the rapid range expansion that the species is exhibiting in the Eastern US.

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Foggy Birding at Lake Ontelaunee

It was wonderfully foggy yesterday but I decided I wanted to see what the lake held before the fog lifted and everything flew off. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick that I could barely see anything on the lake. There was a good flock of Canada Geese with one young Snow Goose mixed in as well as a Red-breasted Merganser. That was it for the lake. I walked around some of the brushy areas near the lake and managed to get a fine picture of the fog. Looks pretty haunted…

Also got some good looks at a hyper Winter Wren(when aren’t they) and some Golden-crowned Kinglets. I really love the way the kinglets hang out in tall grassy areas and pop right up in front of you when you pish.
The other highlight was the large flock of gulls that were pulling worms out of a nearby schools lawn. There must have been over 200 Ring-billed and 10 Herring Gulls in the flock. I kept scanning to find something rarer (Iceland Gulls have been reported nearby and both Black-backed gulls are possible) but they kept disappearing into the fog.