Looking Back: Gull Frolic 2022

This will be short. I attended the first Gull Frolic since the pandemic began, on February 19, 2022. It was clear and very cold, there was a lot of ice, and normally these would have been good conditions to attract a lot of gulls, but the gulls have been affected by the pandemic too, in that they noticed a significant drop in human activity and had to adjust. I think the prevailing consensus was that the gulls were likely at the town dump, and they might have eventually worked their way over to the yacht club where the event is held every year. But in general, there were hardly any gulls, most of them were Herring Gulls, and after a while those that came were no longer very interested in the bread being thrown to them.

I endured the cold as long as I could. It was good to see some people I knew and I met some new folks.

There were definitely more Canada Geese than gulls on the ice.

It seemed perfunctory to take some photos of the gulls going after slices of bread, even if they lacked the usual over-the-top enthusiasm.

Also a few flight photos were obligatory.

There were a couple gull species other than Herring that were seen but I did not manage to photograph them. I did get some distant shots at a male Harlequin Duck that was quite far away. He was keeping company with some Common Goldeneye.

I captured one Redhead and some of the Common Goldeneye…and a Greater Scaup in the upper right hand corner – thanks to Ann I am correcting omission of its ID.

and a pair of Bufflehead early on.

I did not recall ever having seen the sculptures below that are on rocks by the harbor.

Here are a few more frolicking Herring Gulls…

We are going to experience some freezing temperatures over the next couple of days but I doubt seriously that it will be cold enough to freeze the lake again.

I managed to get out this morning after two days stuck inside because of rain or the likelihood of it. I almost didn’t make it out the door, but I just could not stand to spend another morning on the futon. I will be back next with a little report on the status of the Chicago Portage. If we get snow overnight, which is the latest prediction, I will stay home and shovel tomorrow morning.

Two Visits to McGinnis Slough

Even though I never go to McGinnis Slough these days prepared to see a lot of birds – which would require bringing my scope – I invariably see something interesting. It used to be a great place for hundreds of Great Egrets and multiple Great Blue Herons, but for the past several years the numbers have dwindled to a few individuals. During waterfowl migration it’s still a place to see good numbers of several species. My last two visits were sort of before and after spring migration. But I like the fact that it’s not crowded. You can’t your bike through it, so that likely keeps people away. And you could miss it driving by at 50 mph on LaGrange Road, even though the entrance is newly paved and there’s a lovely wrought-iron fence, maybe to keep the deer from crossing the highway.

So these photographs are from April 4 and June 7 of this year. From grays and browns in early April to greens and blues in June. April 4 was a good day for Tree Swallows, even if they look washed-out on a cloudy day.

Tree Swallow and a Northern Shoveler
Blue-winged Teal

The gray and brown was enhanced by a little low-lying fog on the April visit.

I haven’t seen an awful lot of Eastern Phoebes this year. I think flycatchers in general have been scarcer, which I can only assume speaks to the lack of insects. I hope they can recover somehow.

Eastern Kingbird, another flycatcher

In the tail end of waterfowl migration, some Lesser Scaup were close enough to photograph.

Those white blobs are actually American White Pelicans on the far shore.
The slough was quite marshy in June.

The June visit featured Warbling Vireos chasing around at eye-level, and then one sang for me. I managed to record a bit of his song below after having him pose for all these pictures.These guys are hard to spot normally so I indulged.

I often see Wood Ducks lined up on this fallen log. The June visit was no exception.

Wood Ducks

Baltimore Orioles aren’t advertising for mates anymore so they’re a little harder to spot.

Going down the path to the north, I encountered a couple does.

There were a few Cedar Waxwings in the same general area as the Warbling Vireos.

This White-breasted Nuthatch would have been even better if he had turned around.

Red-winged Blackbirds abound.

And in the flying-by department…

Herring Gull
Double-crested Cormorants

I’m used to seeing rose mallow, and maybe it will appear later in the summer, but I think this wild iris is new.

Thanks for making it to the end of this long post! We are in for a long, hot, sunny weekend around here. With luck, I will find more birds to share with you.

Back to Virtual Travel

I didn’t go to The Gull Frolic this year. I decided not to when the invitations went out to Illinois Ornithological Society members last November. I was then looking forward to my trip to San Blas and the thought of coming back to stand on the lakefront in freezing temperatures after spending the early part of January in warm and sunny Mexico did not appeal to me. And anyway, my head was still full of images of Great Black-backed Gulls I had seen in New Brunswick and Grand Manan.

So this post features some of the Great Black-backeds and other species seen as we made our way from St. John to Grand Manan by ferry.

The photo below is actually a small section of a larger image. I was trying to focus on the White-Winged Scoters we were seeing from quite a distance. Or as Ann has now corrected me, they were Black Guillemots! We had some Scoters too. But this is sometimes the problem with processing photos half a year or more later.

Black Guillemots

More of the White-Winged Scoters. Oh they’re not, let’s fix this right now. They are Black Guillemots. I don’t know what happened to the Scoter. Maybe it’s in the third photograph on top — how far away we were at one point…

White-Winged Scoters

More Great Black-backed Gulls – and there’s likely a few Herring Gulls in the group shot, but it’s more like a warmer version of a Gull Frolic.

These Red-Necked Grebes were distant but delightful nonetheless.

Sooty Shearwaters don’t photograph particularly well at a distance.

A glimpse of a rugged landscape.

Great Shearwaters were abundant and easier to photograph than the Harbor Seals in the first two photographs below.

I thought this post needed a little color.

A few more Great Black-Backed Gulls.

Some of that lovely rugged stuff that grows on rock.

And an adult Herring Gull.

I will be back with the other half of this day’s photos. The focus will be on land birds. It took me a week to process the 740-or-so images on my recalcitrant pokey travel laptop. But I guess these days I can’t complain about how long it takes me to do anything.

In Between

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

My last trip to the lakefront was at the end of November. I intended to post some pictures from that visit closer to the time they were taken but the holidays and impending travel plans got the better of me. So in between the Mexico trip posts here’s a little nostalgia from home.

Above and below, a very cold-looking Golden-Crowned Kinglet I encountered in the plantings outside the Columbia Yacht Club. I confess to seeing his fiery crown first before I eventually saw the entire bird.

I miss the lakefront for these little guys, the Horned Grebes, that tend to hang out conveniently near the shore. There were also a few closer ducks that day, in between dives.

Horned Grebe

The Crow Crowd I expected was not present, but I did find a small but enthusiastic group at my last stop, Lake Shore East Park.

I don’t remember exactly where this very young Cooper’s Hawk was.

Predictably, a Herring Gull and a White-Throated Sparrow…

Herring Gull
White-Throated Sparrow

I’ve been trying to keep up with the Mexico pictures and hope to manage another post in a couple days. If for no other reason than to take a break from the cold, gloomy weather and news cycle, if you can even call it that.

On the Water

Well, I took way too many photographs on the pelagic tour in the Bay of Fundy… it was primarily a whale-watching boat tour, but we got to see plenty of birds too. It was a beautiful day. And I am convinced the Humpback Whales know exactly what’s going on and they willingly provide entertainment. I believe we saw 9 of them – with the captain of the boat calling each one by name, depending on the pattern of white coloring underneath its tail.

Great Shearwater and Herring Gull
Humpback Whale
A pod of three Humpbacks…

Here’s another Storm-Petrel to add to my life list.

As we got closer to the whales…they seemed to become more active.

One or two of a Sooty Shearwater…

We had a lot of Great Black-backed Gulls throughout the tour, but I seem to have captured a only Herring Gulls in these photos. It is remarkable to take a photograph of a bird flying alongside the boat – it occurred to me going through these shots that you rarely get this perspective.

Great Shearwaters outnumbered every other species but I adore them and think they’re very photogenic. You can see how they got their name, looking in one or two photos like they’re walking on water…

Of course we were eager to see Atlantic Puffins. There weren’t many close to the boat but I did my best to capture this one…or two?

A Common Tern, not too close to the boat…

I invite you to click on the series of pictures below – I know they look a lot alike but whales don’t move as fast as birds and between the boat motion and the whales themselves maybe you get some of the idea of what it was like to see them…

I might add that the water was clean, free of debris and wonderful to see.

I will be back with more pictures from the trip to New Brunswick and Grand Manan. I have been home today trying to get my heat fixed, so that has given me a little more time to attend to this post. So far the repairman doesn’t know what’s wrong, but the sun is shining and we should be warm enough in the house for the next few days. I hope to get it fixed soon and not have to take any more time off of work.

Waking Up Was Harder This Morning

Spring so desperately wants to happen. Or so I wrote when I was starting to put together this post four days ago. But then we had to spring the clocks forward, as if shifting more light to the end of the day would hurry up spring faster. However, we have been held back by what seems like the longest winter ever, and that one-more-day philosophy takes over. I may be too tired to know what I’m writing here, but I think the bright sunshine and the angle of its light now helps to wake me up, wakes the birds up, and the trees are probably musing among themselves, the time is coming.

I’ve managed to walk along the river a few times in the last couple of weeks, whether on my way in to work or those rare times when I manage to take a break and go for a walk. The weather has made it more difficult. I got out today for half an hour or so. The wind made it quite chilly, but wherever I could find a patch of sun, there was hope, if not many birds.

In any event, below are some pictures I took of Red-Breasted Mergansers last week. They’ve been hanging out in the river lately, like they did last year. One evening before I got on the train, I counted over 100 within my view outside the station. The pictures below are from one morning last week when there were four males trying to attract one female. She got into the act at one point chasing off one of her suitors. Click on the images for a better view.

Here’s the guy she decided upon. I love her mascara.
Here is a Common Merganser for comparison.

Herring Gulls have been following the mergansers hoping to snatch the ducks’ catch.

I was really surprised on an earlier walk to see a River Crow! A Herring Gull was surprised to see him too and tried to knock the Crow off his perch, but of course, the Crow was triumphant.

On my way back to the office, I looked back to see the Crow cawing about his victory.

I’m hoping for a Return of the River Crow. I miss hanging out with the Lakefront Crows terribly, and it would be just so neat to have a River Crow following. So now every time I go out, I carry peanuts, just in case.

The moon was beautiful a couple weeks ago, so I took a few pictures after I went swimming (there are always better moon views in the gym parking lot). It was exactly a month after the night of the blood moon when my former Prius C was totaled. The shock has almost completely worn off, and I’m very happy with the new car. It’s easier to give people rides, so there are more conversations. And I am about to find out how much easier it will be to fill up the hatch with birdseed. What more could I want?

Freezing at the Frolic

Last weekend I attended the Gull Frolic in Winthrop Harbor, for the usual reasons: something birding-related to do during the winter and an opportunity to see some people I haven’t seen in a long time.

So yeah, it was cold. And windy. And there were a couple gulls that weren’t Herring Gulls. And some ducks here and there. One turned out to be rather rare – a female Long-Tailed Duck, formerly known as Old Squaw. Maybe there were more gull species later, but I had to do my Saturday food shopping and cleaning and get up early Sunday to sing in the choir, so I left in the early afternoon.

Herring Gulls with a Glaucous Gull