So life returns to Gooseberry and at last I get to see it in the spring!
This is the tale, told mostly in photos, of two walks – one last Saturday and one this morning and the focus is on the return of the birds, including Least Terns, Bonaparte Gull, Willet, Common Yellow Throat, Yellow Warbler, and a Brown Thrasher. And to continue our military theme from the last post, a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly.
Don’t ask me why, in more than 40 years, I haven’t roamed out here in the spring time, but it seems to be the one season I’ve been busy elsewhere. So the experience of the returning shorebirds is new to me and while I recognize several, several had me shaking my head, and they puzzled Don as well.
Let’s start with this gull-like fellow – cute, and with a strange ear mark! He’s a Bonaparte Gull – the first I’ve seen. And he was unusual enough so Don at first didn’t think he was a gull. And that fits Pete Dunne’s description where he calls him a “tern-like” gull. Here’s a shot that shows off some of his better features.
When I sent this picture to Paul Champlin to confirm the identification he wrote:
Fleshy legs, so yes!. Adults have black heads and no dark on the top side of the wing, so this is a second year bird. A fairly rare gull that’s been showing up more often is Common Black-headed Gull, which looks almost exactly like this but has red or reddish-black legs, can have a reddish or blackish bill, and is a little larger (if you have something to compare it to).
We saw him – or another one – today in about the same spot with several Least Terns gathered at the south end on both visits. There’s been quite flock of these to watch and last week was the first time I’ve identified them. I took many shots of them in flight. They are so aerobatic! But in this first image I caught one with a fish. The next few shots show what I assume is a male making an offer to a female – a sort of tern dating tactic – but she doesn’t seem too impressed. Pete Dunne describes the Least Tern as “a high-strung pixie” that is “short-bodied, short-tailed, and long winged (folded wing-tips reach beyond the tail) – all angles and all energy.”
I think the business of wing-length shows well in several of the pictures both in flight and on the rocks.
OK – that was last week – here are a few more from today.
Boy – almost forgot one of my favorites – the Black-bellied Plover. Saw a lot of these in the fall, but then they weren’t dressed to kill. Take a look at them here, then skip back to this Fall post from a few years ago.
Dunne is not kind to our next little friend, the Eastern Willet – at least when he’s on the ground. He calls him a “sturdy, inelegant, straight-billed, coastal shorebird in a plain brown wrapper . . .
. . . whose vivid wing pattern explodes in flight”
Got that right!
It was those intensely black patches at mid-point that really caught my attention and helped me identify this bird when I saw it last week. I’ve seen one before – several years ago on Horseneck – but not since. Apparently they are only up here for a few months – May, June – and maybe July? (I’ll have to ask Paul.) They can also be quite noisy and you notice in the first shot below shows he’s saying something as he flies by.
But what really took me by surprise was one showed up inland as we walked towards the towers, flying past us and landing in the top of a tree, the morning sun washing out his features, but showing a nice profile.
Also in the trees this morning out near the towers were quite a few warblers – part of the spring migration. Wish I could have gotten a better shot of this guy – a Common Yellowthroat male – but I love that black mask!
Next up was a female that I though might be his companion, but I believe is the female yellow warbler. (notice the yellow-green cap?)
But my favorite was this very personable male, Yellow Warbler. As Don listened to the rapid clicking of my camera, he said “there goes a whole roll of Ektachrome!” Yep – we’re showing our age – and in those days when we thought Ektachrome was so cool both the technology and my personal finance would not have allowed for this kind of multi-shot approach. But I love the changing expressions!
And then there was the handsome Brown Thrasher Don spotted in a tree.
Didn’t seem to be many butterflies this week, but last week we saw a beautiful Red Admiral on the beach near the East Point. I’ve seen a couple of these in the yard this spring, but this is the first I’ve seen on Gooseberry – have to add him to my modest Gooseberry Butterfly List.
Of course, if you saw him only with his wings folded you may not find him so striking –
But then . . .
And just for comparison – or to test me, or something – this Painted Lady came by.