Friday, September 25, 2009

Gulls Just Wanna Have Fun

September 15 – 16, 2009
Rockport, Massachusetts

Yes, it’s not the beach without a seagull. Or lots of seagulls.
When I was a kid, my family always went to Ocean City, New Jersey. As far as I can remember, hefty Herring Gulls ruled the beach, stealing food right out of a toddler’s hand. The air was filled with raucous Laughing Gulls, wheeling about endlessly.

On this visit to Cape Ann, I saw neither one of these gulls, but then again, I was only casually looking. (Even my eyes needed a vacation!)

There were some that I might identify as Ring-billeds, like the hungry fellow above, and Black-Backeds (seen in the previous blog entry) –

Then others, in immature plumages, strikingly beautiful but maddening to identify – someone help me with these!

Early one morning I walked back to a quiet millpond near the inn. There, I caught a view of several blue herons sleeping – long grey pods seemingly without heads. It was dim lighting, so my attempts to photograph them didn’t come out well. They soon woke up and headed out to their day’s hunting.
A few feet away from them, was another shape - a new bird for me!

A black-crowned night heron, who was just settling down after being up all night.
(It’s a grainy shot, but you can see his red eye.)

Later, at the Dogbar Breakwater in Gloucester, I saw some unfamiliar large ducks out in the water. One was sitting in the rocks – she stood up to flap out her wings:

And when she settled, I zoomed in – the schnozz was the giveaway - a Common Eider:

There were cormorants fishing the seaward side of the breakwater – but they were too fast for me. If you look closely, you can see part of him under the water.

Back in Rockport’s harbor, we watched one from our restaurant table.
They are the fishiest birds I know. They seem perpetually wet and oily.

But to get back to gulls -
As I sat in a sandchair on Front Beach that last warm and sunny afternoon, it was fun to just watch one individual gull for a while. He found a little tidal pool left behind as the tide had gone out, and assiduously bathed himself, just like any sparrow in a birdbath. After a good deal of dunking and splashing, he walked over to a sunny spot and began to preen, arranging all his feathers just so.

One last fluffout, and he’s ready to hit the fashion runway.

Tyra Banks, step aside!


  1. This was great! We mostly take gulls for granted, but you helped us take a closer look. That preening gull was a beauty! And so are your photos.

  2. I love gulls so much! I need to find myself a decent gull guide (and some gulls besides the Burger King ring-billed ones). I wish I could help you ID your photos here, but shorebirds are new ones for me usually!

    If you ask me, gulls are showoffs, and your fashion model one proves it. :)