Sunday, February 06, 2011

Gulls, Ducks, and More in Gloucester Harbor

Aside from magnificent looks at Common Eiders and a White-winged Scoter, Jodrey's State Fish Pier offered views of some other waterbirds at close range. Some sleeping Red-breasted Mergansers are shown above. Other ducks in the harbor included Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, American Black Duck, and Bufflehead.

Gulls were plentiful as well, largely due to the fishing industry, which has fishing boats and processing plants lining the piers. The most interesting gull continues to generate discussion at 10,000 Birds. Opinions on its identity range from Slaty-backed Gull to Lesser Black-backed Gull to Great Black-backed Gull. I am undecided and still waiting to see if a consensus develops among more knowledgeable birders than me.

A lot of gulls were clearly Great Black-backed Gulls. Some of them were fighting a continuous battle over this fish carcass. One would win and get a few mouthfuls, and then another would come along, drive it off the rock, and claim the carcass for itself. You can see a few of the gulls fighting in the video I posted of a swimming Common Eider.

Besides the common trio of gulls (Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Herring Gull), the pier is a great place to find white-winged gulls. On the day of the Superbowl of Birding, we spotted a Glaucous Gull from the pier, as well as three Iceland Gulls. On Sunday morning I was able to photograph one of the Iceland Gulls, this one an adult. Unfortunately the photo does not quite render how pale the wingtips are or how beautiful these gulls look in person.

As I mentioned in my post on the Superbowl, we spotted three species of alcids from the fish pier during the competition: Thick-billed Murre, Black Guillemot, and my life Dovekie. The Thick-billed Murre and the Black Guillemot were in the harbor again on Sunday. This time the murre was ridiculously close to the pier. It is hard to get much better looks at an alcid than this, especially from land!

Finally, Common Loons were also coming fairly close. In almost any other place, good looks at a loon would have been a highlight, but at the fishing pier it lags behind the other great birds in the harbor. They are still fine looking birds, though.