Monday, April 15, 2013

GULLOLOGY

I know - that's a mallard above.  He's the picture of contentment.  I really got tricked today on the water.  I noticed a gull, or tern, that I had not previously seen.  I thought I made a fantastic discovery.  The bird in question is below:


I know what ringed billed and bonapart's gulls look like and this wasn't anything like either of them.  I couldn't wait to get home to the field guide.  Home is obviously a good place to keep a "field" guide.  I even took a picture of a bonapart's gull as it few past my boat.  It is below:


Notice the white plumage and the black bill.  There is a mark behind the eye also.  The tails of the mysterious bird and the bonapart's are identical.  The black edging on the backs of the wings of both birds is also the same.
Below is the mysterious bird in flight:

The field guide seemed to indicate that this bird was a sabine's gull or a black headed gull.  It's a dead ringer for one.  The pictures in the guide and my bird appeared to be the same with only subtle differences.  Well, the subtle differences made all the difference in the world.  I emailed the state ornithologist and told him to look at these pictures I took today of a rare sabine's gull.  I thought I made an earth shaking discovery.  Foolish me.  He emailed me back and said my bird was a bonapart's gull in breeding plumage.  Huh!?  The field guides don't show that variation.  How amazing is that?  Think about it..  This bird has the ability to change it's entire appearance just because of the breeding season. The white bonapart in flight obviously has already changed back into his normal plumage or is a non breeding bird.
 The bird above is therefore molting his black breeding plumage out and reverting back to his white summer plumage or just changing into his breeding plumage.  Below are two bonapart's in full, rich breeding plumage.

I still find this transformation absolutely amazing.  How can anyone keep track of birds if they are going to change clothes?  Oh well - live and learn.  I captured some of these pretty feathered beings while on the wing below:


I'll have to check on the ring billed gull.  They are also white with a black band around the bill.  I haven't seen any of them on the lake.  Birds are fascinating.
Check out the flock below.  They've taken over the whole island.

Closer inspection proves them to be cormorants.  They're back from wherever they went over winter.  I've never seen so many at one time.  This is an amazing sight.  I'm glad they are not aggressive.

It's been an amazing morning as well as a beautiful day.  80 degrees and bright sun.  


And - ya gotta love the mallard.  
Hope you liked the gullology discussion.   Birds offer constant discovery to those who care to investigate them.  They constantly test one's senses.  See ya.