Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Port Huron Kumlien's Gull - 22 Feb 2009

On the heels of Jeff Fisher's and Nate Crawford's post regarding the numbers of Long-tailed Ducks at Port Huron, I decided to take a ride up this this Sunday afternoon. Morning skies were clear, but clouds moved in just as I arrived at Riverside Park just below the Blue Water Bridge.

As reported, there were hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks floating / flying just beyond the mouth of Lake St. Clair. Only a single drake Long-tailed Duck was visible in the channel in front of me.
I grabbed the camera and scope/tripod setup and headed off toward the rocks along the shoreline. As I began to take snapshots of the Redbreasted and Common Mergansers in front of me a white-winged gull soared into view across the channel. As it circled and drifted my way I directed my attention away from the mergansers and began snapping away as the gull drifted overhead and past me. Having the Nikon D300 and Sigma 400mm f/5.6 setup attached to a monopod really made it easier to get sharp images while the bird soared past. I would need to wait to get home to determine if it is a Glaucous Gull or an Iceland Gull as it was moving too fast to look for field marks...

Once the gull disappeared I spotted the drake Long-tailed Duck flying back upstream toward the mouth of the river. I took several series of frames as it passed by, and struggled to set up the digiscoping equipment with a camera/long lens/monopod hanging around my neck. Add to this a fast current that swept the gorgeous male bird downstream, intermittent sunshine in your periphery that prevents a clear view of the camera viewfinder, and you have a recipe for extreme-digiscoping! Just as I would get the duck in focus it would decide to dive. So I would have to wait 'till it flew back upstream and drift by a second, third, fourth.... time to try to get some keeper images. With numbing fingers I managed to get a few images worthy of post-processing.

Just before packing up my things my white-winged gull reappeared under the bridge and began to fly toward me once again. As I fired away at the passing bird I noticed it heading toward the light post just to my right. Lucky for me it landed at a distance that I could digiscope it. Putting the scope on it I could tell that it was an adult bird in breeding plumage (it had a clean white head w/ no dark feathering). The pale yellow eye, lack of colored orbital ring, relatively small bill and long wing-projection was diagnostic for Iceland Gull. However, the slate-colored wing-tips suggest that it is a Kumlien's Iceland Gull. ID was later confirmed by fellow Birdforum members Derek Charles and JanJ (Thanks Guys!).

Once the Kumliens Gull l left, I packed up and headed for Edison Park. Walking down to the beach I found dozens of Long-tailed Ducks flying off toward the buoys and avoiding the ice flows near shore. Among them were several pairs of White-winged Scoters, a few Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Mergansers that tended to stay farther out in the lake. I took a few long-distance photos and attempted to digiscope some of the Long-tails, but the winds were whipping sand and snow, so I walked back to the car.

One last stop at Riverside Park yielded a female Common Goldeneye near shore, more Common Mergansers, and a pair of Bufflehead. With no more Long-tailed Ducks in the river, I packed up and headed for home.

Note: images with more than one Kumlien's Gull are composites of several frames to show wing tips/patterns, etc...

1 comment:

Cathy Carroll said...

Jerry, great post and, as always, terrific photos. I might try to get to P.H. this Sunday to see if I can't also find that bird. Cathy

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