Black-headed Gull, part deux! - 23 Aug 2014
I caught up with Pat Jakel near Cell 1 of the Banana Unit late this afternoon. He was scoping the Humphries Unit with the hopes of seeing the Plegadis ibis pair that have been spotted these past few days. The sun was shining, and it was humid, but winds were blowing enough that I had to keep ahold of my hat for fear of losing it. We could not relocate them. We also dipped on the Yellow-crowned Night Heron in the NE corner of the Humphries Unit.
We rode on to Cell 3 where we ran into Darlene Friedman, and shortly thereafter, Jeremy and Holly Joswick. Noone had seen the Black-headed Gull since earlier in the day, and so far we weren't seeing it on Pelican Point (recently nicknamed peninsula in the SW corner of Cell 3 that's been hosting up to 80 American White Pelicans this summer). The American Avocet was present, but little else of note. I decided to ride on along the Lake Erie shoreline in case the gull was out on the lake, while Pat, Darlene and the Joswicks headed toward the NW corner to check the gull flock there.
Some decent rollers were crashing into the shoreline while rode the east dike, so there were few gulls on the water. I got a call from Pat indicating that the Black-headed Gull was spotted by Jeremy and Holly, so I continued on around the north end of Cell 3 to meet up with them. But since the sun was shining on the NE corner of the Humphries Unit I decided to scope the corner. I spotted a Snowy Egret, Willet, Red Knot, seven Black-bellied Plovers, several Short-billed Dowitchers, and numerous Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, a Baird's Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs. I decided to see if I could get close enough to digiscope the Red Knot.
I hiked down the side of the bank and spent a few minutes digiscoping a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs that flew in within 30 feet. I then continued on toward the north end of the unit to digiscope the Red Knot that was foraging in the stubble. Unfortunately, by the time I got close enough the bird was severely side-lit by the sun, so I did the best I could to digiscope it.
I then headed back to Cell 3 where Darlene was photographing the Black-headed Gull that was very close to the shoreline. Sunlight was in the perfect position for illuminating the bright red bill and feet of the gull that contrasted nicely against the bright yellow bills of the nearby Ring-billed Gulls. I spent a few minutes digiscoping the gull with the Nikon V3 and Digidapter™before switching to the Nikon 300/2.8 VRII, TC17EIII and the Nikon V3 (EFL ~1377mm).
With the Nikon V3 attached to the 300/2.8 the images were MUCH sharper with much faster shutter speeds, so Darlene and I waited for the Black-headed Gull to stretch its wings. And we waited.
We got several nice wing stretches from the bird, and at 10 fps I was able to capture every feather detail!
Since the nearby Ring-billed Gulls were doing the same I took the opportunity to document their wing stretches.
Not to be outdone, but a couple of 1st-year Herring Gulls did the same. And just for kicks, compare 1st-cycle Herring and 2nd-cycle Ring-billed Gulls - very similar appearance, but note size of bill and extent of gray on their backs.
With the Black-headed Gull gradually moving farther away, and sun starting to disappear we packed up and headed back to the cars.